ANAHEIM – The baby shower decorations still hung at Evelyn Morales’ apartment Monday as she talked about the last time she saw her boyfriend’s mother, one of three women struck and killed Saturday night in a crash that police believe involved a drunk driver.
Anaheim resident Carmen Mendoza, 56, along with her daughter Sheyla Mendoza, 21, and niece Stephanie Henriquez, 21, were walking to their car about 11 p.m. to head home after Morales’ baby shower when they were struck and killed by a red Honda Civic, police said.
“They were good people, very sweet,” Morales said.
Buena Park resident Anthony Lewis Sanchez, 40, whose occupation is listed as a truck driver, is under arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter after the women were hit in the 100 block of South Western Avenue, near Lincoln Avenue, Anaheim police Sgt. Bob Dunn said.
Dunn said that upon impact, two of the women were thrown through the Honda’s windshield. The women were not in a marked crosswalk, he said.
Morales’ boyfriend received a call about the fatal crash that night, and Morales went to see the aftermath. She recalls seeing a body covered in a white sheet.
The elder Mendoza and Henriquez died at the hospital, while Sheyla Mendoza died at the scene, Orange County coroner’s officials said.
“We’re trying to work with it,” Morales added. “It’s tough, especially with three losses.”
Monday morning, several neighbors and friends stopped by the memorial site adorned with rows of candles, flowers, photos of Sheyla Mendoza with friends and a rosary. A green poster read: “REST IN PEACE MY SHEYLA.”
Karla Martinez, 21, of Anaheim described Sheyla Mendoza as a “very friendly person” who played basketball at Western High School in Anaheim and attended Cypress College.
“She always talked to everyone,” Martinez said. “People always saw us together.”
Martinez said she and Sheyla Mendoza were inseparable.
“We were always laughing,” Martinez said.
As neighbors lit candles, they spoke of speeding issues on that street and recalled the traumatizing scene.
The crash happened in the middle of the street, surrounded by apartments, a coin laundry and single-family homes.
Norma Vasquez, 36, rushed outside her second-floor apartment on Western Avenue when she heard the screams and screeching tires.
Vasquez said she saw two victims inside the vehicle with at least one victim’s feet hanging from the window.
“There has been several crashes, but not as ugly as this one,” Vasquez said.
Ralph Uribe-Chavarria and his wife were returning from a party when they saw the aftermath of the crash. They parked in the intersection and got out.
Uribe-Chavarria said he tried to help one victim, “slumped over the right passenger seat,” whose body was exposed.
“I was trying to pull her shirt down. She was trying to grab my hand,” Uribe-Chavarria said.
Uribe-Chavarria said the music inside the Honda was playing loud, and the driver was “in shock.”
Sanchez and his female passenger were taken to a hospital with nonlife-threatening facial injuries.
The Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed that Sanchez has a commercial driver’s license and said he has no other crashes or disciplinary actions on his record.
Court records show he was charged in 2006 with possession of a controlled substance after a Placentia detective found two small bags of methamphetamine in his possession. The charge was dismissed after he completed a drug-treatment program.
Sanchez also pleaded guilty in 1997 to possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, court records show.
The cause of the crash is under investigation, Dunn said.
By ALEJANDRA MOLINA and DOUG IRVING/ ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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