One week after she received the gift, the 15-year-old paid for the cell phone with her life.
Rubio was walking her 7-year-old sister home from school when her phone was stolen just blocks away from their Santa Ana apartment, the police said Wednesday.
The man stopped and asked Rubio for the time and when she checked her phone to tell him, he grabbed it and jumped into a Pontiac, said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
Rubio gave chase and jumped onto the car's trunk and clung 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, on Saturday, he said.
"She told her she needed to take care of this phone or she wouldn't buy her a new one," Bertagna said.
"For kids today their phone is everything to them," he said.
Rubio's mother and other relatives were grieving together at their apartment Wednesday and declined to comment to the AP.
Hernandez, 44, said at a news conference on Tuesday that her daughter seemed aware of what was going on around her at the hospital and that she thought she 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.
Rubio was known for being an animal lover and dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.
The iPhone was later 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. He described the vehicle as a light gray or silver Pontiac. Anyone with information was asked to call Santa Ana detectives.