Marisol Hernandez recently gave her daughter a new iPhone 5S on condition she get good grades during her sophomore year of high school. Rubi Rubio already had broken two phones, so Hernandez told her daughter if she broke this one it would be her last.
One week after receiving the gift, the 15-year-old paid for the cellphone with her life after a man stole it and she died trying to get it back.
"For kids today their phone is everything to them," Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.
Rubio, an animal lover who dreamed of being a veterinarian, was walking her 7-year-old sister home from school last Thursday when her phone was stolen just blocks away from their Santa Ana apartment.
A man stopped and asked Rubio for the time and when she checked her phone he grabbed it and jumped into a light gray or silver Pontiac, Bertagna said.
Rubio gave chase, jumping onto the car's trunk and clinging to it as the driver swerved until she fell off, Bertagna said. She struck her head on the street and died of head trauma three days later, he said.
Rubio's mother and other relatives were grieving together at their apartment Wednesday and declined to comment.
A day earlier, Hernandez, 44, said at a news conference that her daughter seemed aware of what was going on around her in the hospital and that she thought the teenager would make it.
"She opened her eyes, looked at me for like five seconds and said, 'Mom," Hernandez said through tears.
"That was the last word I heard from her," she said, according to the Orange County Register.
The iPhone was recovered by neighbors near the scene of the accident and is now being treated as evidence in a homicide investigation, Bertagna said.
The suspect was last seen wearing a black baseball hat, white tank top and light-colored jeans and is described as a Latino in his later 20s or early 30s, said Bertagna.
Anyone with information was asked to call Santa Ana detectives.