A 26-year-old was charged with capital murder and other counts Wednesday in connection with a Pico Rivera carjacking that killed 13-year-old Isabella Cortes on Sunday.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that Jose Elias Aguilar of Los Angeles faces one count each of murder and corporal injury to a child, as well as four counts each of carjacking and kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking.
Prosecutors announced that the case includes special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a carjacking and of a kidnapping, due to the defendant's previous conviction of first-degree burglary in 2017.
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On Sunday afternoon, Aguilar allegedly jumped into a minivan where four siblings, ages 8, 10, 13 and 17, were waiting while their parents picked up food at a Pico Rivera restaurant. Two of the children reportedly managed to jump out of the vehicle before the man began driving.
The 8-year-old boy and 13-year-old Isabella were then ejected from the vehicle due to the defendant’s alleged erratic driving. In addition to Isabella’s death, which occurred when she struck an object while falling from the vehicle, prosecutors say the incident caused the boy to suffer serious injuries.
Aguilar allegedly crashed the van and carjacked a second vehicle, in which the driver fought him until the car, which had a woman and a 2-year-old inside, crashed. The defendant was then allegedly detained by good Samaritans who held him down until the police arrived.
The defendant is being held without bail. If convicted as charged, Aguilar faces a possible maximum sentence of death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors will decide whether to seek capital punishment at a later date.
The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.