Prosecutors in a Pennsylvania county announced Friday that they will seek the death penalty against a 22-year-old man who was on house arrest and wearing an ankle monitor for a previous shooting when he allegedly killed two young brothers innocently playing with kittens in their yard, as well as another young man, in a senseless act of violence that also seriously injured a neighbor.
Alex Torres Santos, 22, is accused of murdering brothers Jesus Perez-Salome, 8, and Sebastian Perez-Salome, 9, as well as Joshua Lugo-Perez, 19, on Tuesday in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. A 33-year-old neighbor was hit by a stray bullet and is likely to recover, according to officials.
Santos and James Fernandez-Reyes, both 16, face three counts of criminal homicide, according to Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf. They are also charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy, and firearms violations in connection with the incident in Lebanon, a tiny town approximately 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
Officials said a third suspect was being sought in connection with the fatal killings.
The district attorney’s office submitted a notice of aggravating circumstances, which is required in cases where the prosecution wants to seek the death penalty, against Santos on Friday, according to Graf.
Prosecutors said the notice against Torres includes five aggravating factors: numerous deaths, two victims under the age of 12, and the severe harm to others posed by the defendant’s activities in a densely populated metropolitan neighborhood.
The shootings had a devastating effect on the family. The boys’ mother, who was working nearby at a supermarket, heard gunshots and hurried over to find them, said the children’s uncle, Felix Muniz Torres, in a phone interview with CBS News on Thursday from his home in Puerto Rico.
According to the network, he characterized his nephews as “very innocent and polite,” often playing together, mostly with their superhero toys.
It all happened on Tuesday night. Police were called to 444 North Fifth Street in Lebanon City after reports of shots fired.
According to police, at least 27 bullets were fired from two firearms.
According to investigators, Jesus Perez-Salome was discovered dead on his back porch. Sebastian Perez-Salome and Lugo-Perez passed away in local hospitals.
authorities discovered Lugo-Perez in the home, where he appeared to have retreated during the firing, according to authorities. Authorities stated that the gunmen targeted Lugo-Perez because of “a previous argument,” but did not elaborate, citing an ongoing investigation.
The residence was where Lugo-Perez and the sons lived. Lugo-Perez had no connection to the boys.
Santos and Fernandez-Reyes fled after the shooting and hid in a nearby residence, according to authorities, but both were apprehended later. A search turned up many firearms, including an AR-15, according to police.
According to officials, Santos delivered both firearms, and both suspects fired bullets before escaping with the murder weapons.
Prosecutors claimed Santos was out on bond for two episodes involving risky behavior with firearms. Authorities stated that in one occasion, he flashed multiple weapons, shot, and injured a man many times.
In the second case, police charged Santos with illegally possessing a weapon without a license, possessing crack cocaine with the intent to deliver, and illegally altering the serial number of a handgun.
Authorities stated the crimes happened within two weeks of each other.
Bail was initially set at $100,000 in his previous case, but a judge reduced it to $50,000 over the prosecution’s protest, according to prosecutors.
Under the terms of the reduced bail amount secured by Santos, the suspect was compelled to wear a monitoring bracelet while under house arrest pending trial. He wore his bracelet to the crime, proving “no deterrent to a violent criminal willing to take a life,” according to Graf.
On Wednesday, the superintendent of the Lebanon School District, where the boys attended, addressed a letter to families.