LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) – Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf says her office has filed a Notice of Aggravated Circumstances and will seek the death penalty against Alex Torres Santos after two young children and a 19-year-old were fatally shot on Tuesday.

The District Attorney’s Office says the decision was made due to the age of the victims and the risk posed to others in the area.

“In my fourteen years as a Lebanon County prosecutor and in my nearly four years as the District
Attorney, we have not filed a Death Penalty Notice in any case,” District Attorney Pier Hess Graf
stated. “No other murder committed during my time as the D.A. has risen to the specific legal
standard necessary to seek death for the killer. This case meets that standard.”

Torres-Santos has been charged with criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, aggravated assault, carrying a firearm without a license, and possessing cocaine.

A potential death penalty case would involve two trial phases: one where a jury would determine whether the defendant is guilty of the crimes charges and a second phase for sentencing to determine whether the death penalty is justified.

Earlier this year Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro announced he would not sign any execution warrants and called for the death penalty to be abolished.

“The Commonwealth shouldn’t be in the business of putting people to death. Period,” Shapiro said. “I believe that in my heart. This is a fundamental statement of morality. Of what’s right and wrong.”

Twenty-three states and Washington D.C. have abolished the death penalty. Since 1976 only three people have been executed in Pennsylvania and more than 100 people remain on death row in the state.

District Attorney Graf noted that, “Many remain critical of the death penalty in today’s world. The
process is lengthy and costly. To those who second guess today’s decision, we did not make it
easily nor did we take the decision lightly. There are some crimes–crimes like this one where
young children were shot to death outside of their home as they innocently played with their
kittens–that demand we charge accordingly.”

The district attorney’s office did not say whether they would seek a similar penalty against other suspects in the case. James Fernandez-Reyes, 16, is also facing charges including criminal homicide and a third unknown person remains at large.

According to police, officers were called to the 400 block of N. 5th Street on Tuesday, May 30, and found multiple gunshot victims on the rear porch.

The police department, in conjunction with the Lebanon County Coroner’s Office and District Attorney’s office, identified the victims as 8-year-old Jesus Perez-Salome, 9-year-old Sebastian Perez-Salome, and 19-year-old Joshua Lugo-Perez. Lugo-Perez was not related to the eight and nine-year-old victims but lived in the same home.

A fourth person, a next-door neighbor, was also injured by a stray bullet. Police found 27 shell casings from two different firearms.

“These shootings are unacceptable. As a mom, I cannot overstate how heartbroken I am for the families,” Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello said Wednesday.

DA Graf says Torres-Santos was on house arrest for several separate firearm and drug charges and was wearing an ankle monitor at the time of the shooting, citing GPS records from the device. Police also observed video in the area showing a white vehicle and three people fleeing from it.

On Wednesday, May 31, a Lebanon County SWAT team served a search warrant on Torres-Santos’ apartment. Torres-Santos and Fernandez-Reyes ran from the apartment; shortly after, police arrested Torres-Santos.

When police searched the residence, police found an AR-15 rifle police say is consistent with the shell casings found at the scene of the homicides, according to a release from the DA’s office. Police also found a rifle with a duffle bag with magazines filled with .223 ammunition and a small Nike bag containing drug paraphernalia, a scale, and a wallet with ID belonging to Torres-Santos.

According to court records, Fernandez-Reyes was found hiding in an apartment on the 400 block of N. 9th Street.

The DA’s office alleges that Torres-Santos and Fernandez-Reyes committed the homicides together and that Torres-Santos provided the two firearms used in the shootings before they left the scene with the weapons.

The DA’s office also claims that Torres-Santos’ criminal record shows that he is currently out on bail for two separate incidents that both involve “dangerous behavior with firearms” as well as possession of crack cocaine with intent to deliver.

The DA’s office says Torres-Santos’ bail for his previous charges was originally set at $100,000 but was later lowered by a judge to $50,000. Court records also allege Torres-Santos was a suspect in a January 17 shooting and a February 7 shooting involving the same victim that also involved a juvenile who allegedly accompanied Torres-Santos.

The Lebanon City Police Department, the Lebanon County District Attorney’s Office and Detective Bureau, the Pennsylvania State Police, and other Lebanon County Police Departments assisted in the investigation.