Family of fatal crash victim supports charging juvenile driver with murder

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The grandmother of two victims in a fatal crash said she supports charges against the driver. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The grandmother of two victims in a fatal crash said she supports charges against the driver. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Ariella Santos, 12, was one of three people killed in a fiery crash on the Greenway off-ramp of Interstate 17 in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Ariella Santos, 12, was one of three people killed in a fiery crash on the Greenway off-ramp of Interstate 17 in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Estrella Santos, 16, Ariella’s sister, was critically hurt in the same crash. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Estrella Santos, 16, Ariella’s sister, was critically hurt in the same crash. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Phoenix police have recommended three counts of first-degree murder against the 14-year-old driver. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Phoenix police have recommended three counts of first-degree murder against the 14-year-old driver. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
“Some young kid made a wrong decision and made a bad choice to not stop and not listen and three lives were taken and that is a tragedy in itself,” said Marie Castro. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) “Some young kid made a wrong decision and made a bad choice to not stop and not listen and three lives were taken and that is a tragedy in itself,” said Marie Castro. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Marie Castro is having a very hard time processing the double tragedy her family experienced a week ago.

Her 12-year-old granddaughter, Ariella Santos, was one of three people killed in a fiery crash on the Greenway off-ramp of Interstate 17 in Phoenix. Her other granddaughter, Estrella Santos, 16, Ariella’s sister, was critically hurt in the same crash. 

[RELATED: Car wash held for victim in fiery Phoenix crash]

“It hasn’t fully hit us completely. Once we have the services for Ariella then we can begin the grieving process and we can focus more on Estrella. We have to focus, you know? We have to work to bury one and then still maintain for her to keep strong for her because she can hear, she can sense, and we have to stay positive. It’s hard,” said Castro.

The sisters were passengers in what turned out to be a stolen car driven by a 14-year-old boy. There were two adults in the bac kseat. A DPS trooper tried to stop the speeding car when it took off at a high rate of speed and crashed before bursting into flames. Three of the passengers died, the driver and three others were injured.  

[RELATED: Police identify 3 victims from fiery Phoenix crash involving stolen SUV]

“It was a senseless, senseless, tragedy, something that you don’t expect to happen to you. You don’t expect it to happen to your family,” said Castro.

Phoenix police have referred the 14-year-old suspect to the juvenile correctional center and recommended he be charged with three counts of first-degree murder, aggravated assault, endangerment, felony flight and auto theft.  

[READ MORE: 14-year-old boy behind the wheel in fiery crash that killed 3]

“Some young kid made a wrong decision and made a bad choice to not stop and not listen and three lives were taken and that is a tragedy in itself,” said Castro. “It’s a tragedy for the young boy who chose to go down this path, for his family as well. My heart goes out to them because I know that they’re suffering just as much but it’s also for the other families.”

[RELATED: 3 people dead after fiery Phoenix wreck involving stolen SUV]

Castro said her granddaughter was supposed to be walking to the pool where they live, but instead, got in the car they did not know was stolen or was being driven by someone without a license to take a trip to Walmart. An adult neighbor the girls knew was one of the back seat passengers.  

“There’s [sic] so much mixed emotions there’s so much talk and you know it’s just senseless. It’s senseless that we have to go through this for something that could have been easily resolved," she said.

Castro said she believes charges are warranted in this situation.

“That can’t bring my granddaughter back and it can’t bring the lives of the others back but I think that this will teach him and teach others that driving and running from the law is not going to help. It’s going to cause others to die,” said Castro. 

GoFundMe page has been set up for the family.

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Donna RossiEmmy Award-winning reporter Donna Rossi joined CBS 5 News in September 1994.

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Donna Rossi

In that time, Donna has covered some of the most high-profile stories in the Valley and across the state. Donna's experience as a four-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department gives her a keen sense of crime and court stories. She offered gavel to gavel coverage of the 1999 sleepwalking murder trial of Scott Falater, and the trial and conviction of retired Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien for a fatal hit and run accident. She also spent 2 straight weeks in northeastern Arizona in the summer of 2011 covering the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Donna's reputation as a fair and accurate journalist has earned her the respect of her colleagues and community. Her talent as a reporter has earned her more than a dozen Arizona Associated Press Awards and five Emmy statue.

Donna previously worked as an anchor and reporter in Tucson and got her start in broadcast journalism in Flagstaff. Donna is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the NATAS board. She is a member of IFP/Phoenix, a non-profit organization of local film and documentary makers.

Donna was born in New York and moved to the Valley with her family when she was 9 years old. She is a graduate of Maryvale High School and attended Arizona State University. She graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University.

In her free time, Donna enjoys boating on Bartlett Lake, all forms of music and theatre. Donna frequently donates her time to speak to community organizations and emcee their events. She is a past board member of DUET, a non-profit which helps promote health and well-being for older adults. Donna also loves donating her time to youth organizations and groups who work to secure and safeguard human rights.

On Oct. 17, 2015, Donna was honored for her amazing work over the years. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences inducted her into its Silver Circle. It's one of the organization's most prestigious honors for which only a few candidates are selected each year.

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