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Parents Of Dead ‘Ding-Dong Ditch’ Pranksters Forgive Murder Suspect, Celebrate Sons’ Lives

“He would say, ‘Mom, you have to forgive him. You have to,’” Jacob Ivascu’s mom said, three months after Anurag Chandra was accused of murdering her teenage son.

By Daniel Egitto
They Died Too Young: Teen Victims of Homicide

Three months after losing their teenage boys in a birthday prank gone horribly wrong, the boys’ mourning families say they have forgiven the man charged with their children’s murder and want to celebrate their lives.

Southern California’s Jacob Ivascu, Daniel Hawkins and Drake Ruiz, all 16, were close friends since elementary school, according to PEOPLE.

They went to the same church youth group. They went to each other’s parties. And sometimes, they liked to play “truth or dare.”

The dares were typically harmless, Daniel’s mother, Janet Hawkins, told local newspaper The Press-Enterprise.

“You have to drink a tablespoon of hot Tabasco sauce, or they would concoct a bunch of gross stuff and you’d have to drink it,” she said. “…Normally it didn’t entail leaving the house.”

Anurag Chandra Pd

The night of Jan. 19 — Daniel’s 16th birthday — the boys were playing “truth or dare” with Daniel and Jacob’s younger brothers, both named Joshua, and 18-year-old Sergio Campusano. It was the younger Ivascu’s turn. He picked “dare.”

The boys dared him to do a classic “ding-dong ditch”: go to a neighbor’s house, ring the doorbell, and run off.

The six teens piled into Sergio’s car and drove to a nearby house. Jacob rang the doorbell and ran back to the car. Sergio floored it.

But that nigh, they picked the wrong house.

When 42-year-old Anurag Chanra — the man who lived in the house — saw that he’d been pranked, he jumped in his Infiniti sedan and charged after the boys, police told the Press-Enterprise.

He allegedly plowed into them from behind, sending them crashing into a large tree.

Jacob Ivascu died at the scene. Hawkins and Ruiz died in a hospital soon after.

Chandra has been charged with three counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and six counts of assault with a deadly weapon, according to an online inmate search.

“My family and I have been falling apart. Jacob is the eldest of five kids and he was the third ‘mother-father’ figure, so we’re all devastated,” the Ivascus’ father, Alex, told local news outlet ABC 7 News shortly after the incident.

But three months after this tragedy, each of the boy's mourning parents says that, while they still seek justice, they have forgiven Chandra, PEOPLE reports.

Drake’s father, Billy, spoke about his Christian faith, saying forgiveness is “what we believe.”

Jacob’s mother, Ramona, told PEOPLE that this is what her son would want.

“He would say, ‘Mom, you have to forgive him. You have to. Because unforgiveness does not bring any closure,” she said.

Daniel, Jacob, and Drake’s families all organized GoFundMe campaigns in the days after the crash, raising over $80,000 to cover funeral and medical expenses.

On Apr. 15, the families created a website, “The Inseparable 3,” the honor the boys’ memories and spread a message of faith and hope.

And on Apr. 23, the latest GoFundMe campaign created to cover all six boys’ expenses received its first donation.

“I don’t want them to become a statistic, like, ‘Oh, three teenage boys killed,’” Daniel’s father, Craig, told PEOPLE.

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