84°F
weather icon Clear

Families of Las Vegas teens killed in crash shocked to see suspect’s reaction

SANTA ANA, Calif. — Bani Duarte was northbound on the Pacific Coast Highway, in the opposite direction of her home, at about 1 a.m. on March 29, 2018.

Duarte, 28, would learn for the first time in a police interview, conducted just before noon on that date, details about the deadly crash 11 hours earlier at the Pacific Coast Highway and Magnolia Street in Huntington Beach.

“At Magnolia, you came to a red light. There was a car stopped at the red light, and you rear-ended the car,” Huntington Beach police officer Joshua Page explained to Duarte. “Do you remember the accident?”

The DUI suspect’s reaction was captured on video, which was presented to jurors Thursday during the second day of testimony in her trial in Orange County Superior Court. The trial was expected to last a week.

In the video, Page continues: “When you rear-ended the car, there were four teenagers in it. And three of them have died. The car erupted into flames when you impacted it.”

They were Centennial High School students Dylan Mack, 18, Brooke Hawley, 17, and Albert “A.J.” Rossi, 17. A fourth student, Alexis Vargas, survived but was hospitalized with a concussion and second-degree burns.

Mack’s mom, Renee Mack, later told the Las Vegas Review-Journal outside the courtroom: “They all came down here for spring break. Everybody came home, except for three. I just keep staring at the front door, and I still wait for it to open. I expect him to walk through that door and that all of this didn’t happen.”

Duarte has pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and one count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury. She faces 51 years to life in prison if convicted on all counts.

‘The unthinkable’

As the video played in the courtroom, family members of the victims, who have been present in court since the trial started Monday, shook their heads and scoffed.

At one point in the interview, while crying, Duarte asked, “So I’m in jail forever?”

“I didn’t feel sorry for her at all,” Renee Mack said in an interview with the Review-Journal. “She killed us when she killed the kids.”

Her husband, Morgan, nodded his head.

“It was definitely shocking to see her reaction because she had no clue,” he said, his arms folded. “To see that in a person, that they’ve done the unthinkable, and she didn’t even know.”

By sunrise on the day of the crash, the Macks still didn’t know if their son had been in the car. So they got in their car, intending to drive to Huntington Beach for some answers.

But at about 10 a.m., while in the car, Morgan Mack’s phone rang. It was Page, the police officer.

“And he told me to pull over,” he recalled Thursday. “And I knew when he said to pull over, I knew.”

‘Our own prison’

During opening statements Wednesday, Duarte’s attorney conceded that prosecutors have enough evidence to prove that she was drunk at the time of the crash. But attorney Justin Glenn said they will not be able to prove that her crimes amounted to murder.

Still, the Macks said they were hopeful that “justice will be served.”

“When I say we want to see justice served, I would like to see 51 years to life,” Morgan Mack said.

But no matter what verdict the jury reaches, Renee Mack said, a life sentence already has been handed down to three families.

“Our children were taken away from us,” she said. “When you think about, just because we get to walk around freely, doesn’t mean this isn’t our own prison. She stole their lives.”

Duarte, a receptionist and mother of four from San Clemente, California, has been in custody since her recapture in late April 2018, after investigators obtained more evidence and learned she was “possibly intending on fleeing the country to avoid prosecution.”

By then, she had been free on $100,000 bail for weeks.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Crime Videos
What is your astrological sign-crime?
Based on data from Clark County crime reports, what crime do you think your sign commits the most? (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Samuel Little Confession: Las Vegas, Nevada - VIDEO
Samuel Little, 79, has confessed to 93 murders. He is currently in prison in Texas. Law enforcement has confirmed more than half of his confessions, but some remain unmatched. In a recent interview, Little recalled details of a victim in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas police investigate officer-involved shooting - VIDEO
Las Vegas police investigate after Nevada Highway Patrol troopers shot at then used a Taser on a man who had thrown rocks at them near U.S. Highway 95 and Eastern Avenue on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
East Charleston armed robbery - VIDEO
An armed robbery occurred at a business located on the 3000 block of East Charleston Boulevard just after 9 p.m., Sept. 30, 2019. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Gigi Mitchell Sentenced
A woman prosecutors said used an 11-year-old girl as a prop while prostituting on the Strip was ordered to serve up to six years behind bars on Tuesday. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Day 6 of Bani Duarte trial in California
Police say Bani Duarte, 29, was drunk when she drove into a car carrying four Las Vegas teens, killing three, in Huntington Beach, California on March 29, 2018. She is being tried on murder charges in Santa Ana. (Renee Summeropur/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police looking for burglary suspects - VIDEO
Las Vegas police are searching for a man and a woman suspected in four burglaries in the southwest valley this month. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Gustavo Ramos-Martinez, convicted of killing two elderly people, ordered to serve life in prison
Gustavo Ramos-Martinez, convicted of killing two elderly people, ordered to serve two sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Bizutesfaye
Paula Davis sings "On the Steps of the Palace"
Paula Davis sings “On the Steps of the Palace,” a song from the musical “Into the Woods,” at a Timeless Tonys performance in 2017. (Lissy de Jesus/YouTube)
Attorneys for Aryan Warriors request leaked documents
Defense attorneys for two Aryan Warriors members accused of murder and racketeering requested documents during a court hearing Wednesday after they were leaked to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Chance Underwood Preliminary Hearing Called Off - Video
Chance Underwood appears in court with his preliminary hearing called off but will have his hearing in October.
Man sentenced in DUI crash that killed former Metro sergeant’s son
Nineteen year old Alexander Brewer was ordered to serve five to 20 years behind bars Monday for a DUI crash that killed Garrett Meriwether, the son of a retired Las Vegas police sergeant.
Giovanni Ruiz, accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend, appeared in court
Giovanni Ruiz, a UNLV grad student accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend, Paula Davis, appeared in court during his arraignment at the North Las Vegas Justice Center. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Woman attacked, stabbed while sleeping in Las Vegas apartment
A woman awoke in her apartment to find another woman on top of her “stabbing her repeatedly,” according to Las Vegas police on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Rossi Ralenkotter appears in court
Ex-LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter appeared in court on Tuesday, Sept. 10 to face felony charges related to alleged theft of Southwest Airlines gift cards bought by the tourism agency.
Chuck Chaiyakul appears in court
Chuck Chaiyakul,accused of killing a woman and putting her body in a 55-gallon drum, appears in court on Friday. Sept. 6, 2019. (Angus Kelly/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Judge denies bail for man accused of sledgehammer murder
Clinton Taylor, the man accused of bludgeoning a woman he did not know with a sledgehammer while she was doing her laundry, appeared in court Wednesday. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Attorney argues for equal treatment for defendant - VIDEO
Attorneys for a Las Vegas man facing life behind bars for drug possession asked a judge this week to make sure he gets treated like a tech billionaire who avoided prison time in a similar case. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police believe woman's body is in 55-gallon drum (Part 1)
Metro Lt. Ray Spencer briefs the media on a homicide investigation where police believe a woman's body is in a 55-gallon drum in the southwest Las Vegas Valley (Alexis Egeland/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police beileve woman's body is in 55-gallon drum (Part 2)
Metro Lt. Ray Spencer briefs the media on a homicide investigation where police believe a woman's body is in a 55-gallon drum in the southwest Las Vegas Valley (Alexis Egeland/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Damion Dill sentenced in shooting of 11-year-old-girl
Damion Dill was sentenced to 50 years in prison Tuesday, following the shooting death of 11-year-old Angelina Erives last November. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas sledgehammer killing suspect ordered held without bail - VIDEO
Clinton Taylor, the man accused of randomly bludgeoning a woman to death with a sledgehammer early Thursday at a Las Vegas laundromat, was ordered to be held without bail on Friday. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Members of white supremacist prison gang arraigned in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Members of the violent white supremacist prison gang known as the Aryan Warriors were brought before Judge Doulas Herndon for their initial arraignments on Thursday in Las Vegas. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man arrested in face stabbing incident - VIDEO
A man was taken into custody Thursday morning after allegedly attacking his mother at a home on the southwest side of Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police investigate sledgehammer homicide - VIDEO
Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Ray Spencer talks to the media about a woman who was attacked and killed by a man using a sledgehammer, early Thursday morning, Aug. 29, 2019 (Sabrina Schnur/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police fired 6 shots to end standoff at Laughlin casino - VIDEO
SWAT officers fired six rounds Monday morning when they fatally wounded an attempted robbery suspect who pointed a weapon at officers following an hourslong standoff in the Aquarius casino parking lot in Laughlin. (Angus Kelly/Las Vegas Review/Journal)
Off-duty Officer Exchanges Gunfire With Suspect
Las Vegas police Capt. Nichole Splinter briefs the media on a shooting involving an off duty police officer on August 21, 2019. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department/YouTube)
Paul Browning Released from Ely State Prison - VIDEO
Paul Browning greets his mother, Betty Browning, after being released from Ely State Prison. Browning served 33 years on Nevada’s death row. (Rachel Crosby/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Armed robbery suspect killed in officer-involved shooting at Laughlin casino
An armed robbery suspect was killed by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officers after six-hour standoff outside the Aquarius Casino in Laughlin on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspect dead after officer-involved shooting at Laughlin casino
An armed robbery suspect is dead after a nearly seven-hour standoff the Aquarius Casino in Laughlin ended with an officer-involved shooting. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Second officer-involved shooting of 2019 for North Las Vegas Police Department
North Las Vegas Police hold a press conference about the second officer involved shooting of 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Road Rage Homicide Suspect Van
Video shows a van Las Vegas police believe was involved in a deadly road rage incident on August 5. Police announced on August 26 that they have recovered the van. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas police look for armed robbers
Police are seeking two men involved in an armed robbery Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, on the 7500 block of North Cimarron Road, near Farm Road. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas police searching for video related to road rage homicide
Lt. Ray Spencer of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Homicide Section is asking for clues from the public to solve a murder from Aug. 5. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Jury hears closing statements in killing of 17-year-old
Closing statements began today for Jaiden Caruso and Kody Harlan charged in the death of 17-year-old Matthew Minkler. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CCSD to vote on shooting settlement
The Clark County School Board will vote Thursday on a $100,000 settlement for the mother of Dalvin Brown, the Canyon Springs High School student who was shot and killed on school grounds at the beginning of last school year. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police find 2 dead in northwest valley home
Las Vegas homicide detectives are investigating after two people were found dead in a home Friday night in the far northwest valley.
Teen talks about alleged sexual assault at Las Vegas grocery store
A 17-year old says she was groped and then sexually assaulted by a loss-prevention specialist at an Albertsons store in east Las Vegas. The subject's voice has been distorted to protect her identity. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Court hearing For 17-year-old Who Was Found Dead Begins - Video
An image that captured blood pooled near the head of a 17-year-old’s lifeless body appeared on monitors inside a Las Vegas courtroom Wednesday, as prosecutors gave opening statements in the murder trial for two teens charged in Matthew Minkler’s death.
Purse Theft Occurs at Suncoast - Video
Purse theft occurred July 24 at Suncoast just after 930 pm.
Woman accused of trafficking an 11-year-old girl in Las Vegas - Video
A woman accused of trafficking an 11-year-old girl on the Strip agreed to plead guilty to a child abuse charge, her attorney said. Gigi Mitchell, 40, faces several counts of child abuse and one count of child sex trafficking. The 11-year-old girl told social worker Felicia Tucker that she was a “hustler” and entered nightclubs where she drank and flirted with men.
Las Vegas police address latest office-involved shooting
Metro police officials provided details on Monday, July 22, 2019, during a media briefing about an officer-involved shooting, which occurred on July 17 in east Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
THE LATEST