BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — After his cellphone went missing, Tevin Brandt tracked the device to a location in south Bakersfield and confronted three sisters delivering newspapers, prompting a chase that led to a fiery crash on Highway 99, police said.
As the sisters’ vehicle burned, newly-released police reports say, Brandt angrily approached the sole survivor, who managed to escape the wreck with the help of a bystander.
“You and your sisters are criminals who stole my stuff, I hope you die,” Brandt yelled according to witnesses’ statements contained in the reports. One witness recorded the exchange on her cellphone.
As it happens, Brandt got it wrong. The sisters never had his phone.
It was later found in an Uber parked on the same street where he confronted them, the reports say.
Brandt, 30, and Gustavo Montoya, 28, a rideshare driver who earlier gave Brandt a ride and who investigators say participated in the chase, are each charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving. Brandt has a preliminary hearing scheduled for late January; Montoya remains at large.
Killed in the March 4 crash were Karime Duarte, 21, and Jennifer Duarte, 15. The third sister, Diana Ponce, 23, suffered serious injuries.
When tracked down by police, Brandt admitted confronting the sisters but didn’t force them to crash.
He and Montoya each identified the other as the one who “chased” the sisters, the reports say. Brandt said he followed the sisters’ car but remained a few car lengths behind and never drove over 40 mph.
From celebration to tragedy
In town March 3 for his sister’s birthday, Brandt, of Santa Maria, joined other partiers for a night of-barhopping in downtown Bakersfield. He and his girlfriend took an Uber back to his mother’s house in the early morning, say the reports filed in Superior Court.
Later, he realized his phone was missing. Brandt called the Uber driver — Montoya — who said he didn’t have it but would help him search, according to the court documents.
Using his girlfriend’s phone, Brandt tracked his phone to a location on Macau Street. He drove there with his girlfriend while Montoya followed in another vehicle, say the documents.
When they arrived, Brandt saw the sisters in a vehicle as they delivered newspapers. A confrontation occurred.
Ponce told police two men approached her car asking for a phone. She and her sisters told the men they didn’t have it.
The men yelled and banged on the windows, and, afraid they would smash the glass to get inside, she drove away, Ponce said. The men gave chase, tailgating and moving alongside her car, she told police. She said she she believed they were trying to hit her.
The chase came to the end of McKee Road, where the sisters’ vehicle “launched onto Highway 99” and was hit by a pickup, the reports say. It went up in flames.
That’s where, according to witnesses, Brandt once more asked Ponce about his phone then wished death on her before leaving.
Upon performing another check on his phone’s location, Brandt saw the device was still registering as being in the area of Macau Street where he first confronted the sisters.
He tracked the phone to a home that had a vehicle with a Lyft/Uber sticker parked in the driveway.
Ring doorbell footage shows a man later identified as Brandt knock on the door and tell the occupants he’s a “fed” and he needs his phone, which is in their car, according to the documents.
“There is a collision crash on the freeway, just now,” Brandt says according to the reports. “We chased them down and they are dead.”
One of the home’s occupants had Brandt call the phone. It rang in the Uber/Lyft vehicle. The man gave Brandt the phone and Brandt and his girlfriend returned to his mother’s house, documents said.
Brandt told police he didn’t recognize the driver or the car where his phone was found and doesn’t know how it got there.
The documents note another incident in which Brandt claimed an item had been stolen.
After police searched his home on North Center Court in Santa Maria, a “very agitated” Brandt accused officers of stealing a pair of earrings, documents said. A sergeant told him nothing was stolen, and all the officers had body-worn cameras.
“Ohhhh I cannot wait, f— you guys,” Brandt responded, according to the documents.