Arrest In Train Crash Murders

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A West Reading, Pa, man has been arrested and charged with four counts of homicide, accused of deliberately pushing his former girlfriend's car into the path of an oncoming train.

CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports 20-year-old Candace Wertz of Sinking Spring was on a cell phone frantically calling 911 when the train hit. She was killed along with her 2-year-old son John Michael Cortez; her 22-year-old friend Cynthia Jacques; and Jacques' 2-year-old daughter, Allissa.

Authorities say 22-year-old Carlos Angel Diaz Santiago fled the scene of the Thursday afternoon train crash but was arrested Friday on four counts each of homicide and aggravated assault. Police also took into custody another man who they say may have been in the car with Santiago; he was not charged.

"It seems like there was an awful lot of bad luck involved on the part of the victims," says state police Lt. Edward Snyder. "If she had arrived (at the railroad crossing) just moments earlier, she might have been able to pass across the tracks without any problem. As it was, she was only several blocks away from a police station."

Police say Santiago had argued with Wertz at a fast-food restaurant and then chased her in his car at speeds of up to 90 mph for a half-hour through this small town about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

Authorities say the moment the chase began, Wertz called 911, identified her pursuer, and told them her order of protection against Santiago had just expired.

Police say the chase ended when Santiago rear-ended her car at a railroad crossing as she waited for a train to pass, using his car to push her vehicle onto the tracks.

The Norfolk Southern train was traveling at 40 mph and was unable to stop. The car was dragged 50 yards and was so badly mangled, rescue workers could hardly tell the make and model.

A 9-year-old girl was at a nearby playground and witnessed the horrifying crash. "I heard the screech of the train trying to stop the car was twirling and twirling, and it stopped. All four people in there flew out."

Relatives and neighbors said Wertz was trying to flee an abusive relationship. David Peterson, a 24-year-old mechanic who lived next door to Wertz, said he often saw her come home with a bloody nose and bruises on her face. "It was horrible. Everyone knew about it and everyone tried to talk to her about getting help. I wish we had called police on any one of those nights, but we just thought that she would handle it."

Wertz's sister-in-law, Tammy Wertz, says Wertz had planned to move some 80 miles away from Sinking Spring, because her boyfriend was physically and verbally abusive. "The relationship had lasted for five years, and she never took his actions seriously enough. This guy isn't even the child's father, but she just couldn't get away from him."

The murders have stunned residents of the town as well as police. "I have been doing this for 2years," says Lt. Snyder. "I never understood why they involve children in these things."

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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