Posted on Oct 12, 2007

Senseless “racing rage” between two young men in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte October 11 left a mother and her two children dead and a husband wondering what to do with the rest of his “empty” life.

Father Lost Everything He Lived For

“It’s the worst day of your life, times three,” said Stephen Groce, his filmy, hazel eyes fixed on the floor. “I’m a 44-year-old guy…you don’t have a lot else to look forward to.”

Authorities believe the mother, 41-year-old Dora Groce died on impact from the broadside smash. It’s believed her two children – 4-year-old Catherine and 8-year-old Robert – might have burned to death in their seats.

“It was a fierce crash," said El Monte Police Detective Ralph Batres. "The explosion that resulted was immense."

Groce’s car was heaved 50 feet after the crash and wound up a charred piece of twisted metal no one could recognize. Five other people were injured when several cars nearby were struck by the racing vehicles.

If Convicted, Teen-age Motorist Could Face Life in Prison

El Monte police identified the speeding drivers as Robert Canizalez, 19 and Martin Morones, 21. Canizalez, driver of the Mustang that crashed into Groce’s car, was arraigned in L.A. Superior Court and charged with three counts of murder. Bail was set at $3 million. If convicted, Canizalez could face life in prison. Morones is at large and charged in abstentia with three counts of murder and one count of felony hit-and-run. He abandoned his Honda one block from the crash.

Ironically, both men live in the same, mobile-home park as the Groces. Stephen Groce said he knew neither young man.

He was returning home from his job as a U.S.D.A. inspector when he carefully drove around the crash scene near his home. Not until he pulled into the park did neighbors tell him to talk to police. "This was a disaster waiting to happen," he said. "I just didn't know it was going to happen to me."

Sixteen people now have died from drag racing incidents in California this year.