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Suspect vehicle in fatal I-5 collision found in dismantling yard

Published: Wednesday, Jul. 10, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 10, 2013 - 9:51 am

The vehicle suspected of striking a woman on Interstate 5 near Woodland early Friday has been found at a Sacramento dismantling yard, according to the California Highway Patrol

The CHP reported that anonymous tips helped investigators find the vehicle, a 1998 Buick Park Avenue.

Claudia Marie Gonzalez, 17, of Woodland was killed by a hit-and-run driver after she reportedly got out of a vehicle in which she was a passenger and ran into the northbound lanes of traffic on I-5, just north of County Road 103 in Yolo County.

A CHP spokesman said Monday that there were allegations that Gonzalez had been raped.

She was a passenger in a 2001 Chevy Impala that was northbound on I-5 at 12:34 a.m., according to Officer Bryan Konvalin.

Gonzalez was riding with another teenage girl and a 38-year-old man who was driving them back to Woodland after attending a party in West Sacramento.

"Gonzalez was upset due to an allegation of being raped at the party," Konvalin said. "She became very upset, causing the driver to pull over on the right shoulder just north of (County Road 103)."

Konvalin said Gonzalez apparently got out of the Chevrolet and ran into the northbound lanes of traffic, where she was struck by a vehicle that left the scene.

When the 38-year-old man went to assist Gonzalez, the other passenger fled in the Chevy.

Officer John Pinoli said Tuesday that the CHP is not releasing any information on those two individuals, including whether the passenger who fled has been found.

Mark Persons, a spokesman for the Yolo County Coroner's Office said Tuesday that Gonzalez's death has been classified as accidental.

He said the cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force injuries, according to the autopsy. The coroner reported there were no obvious physical findings of sexual assault.

Lt. Tod Sockman of the West Sacramento Police Department said no link had been found between Gonzalez and any activities in West Sacramento.

As of Tuesday afternoon, he said, police had not received the coroner's report. Sockman said West Sacramento police don't plan to investigate unless the CHP requests the department's assistance.

The CHP announced that, after publicizing the description of the alleged hit-and-run vehicle – a brownish-colored 1998 Buick Park Avenue with license plate number 6VIM118 – anonymous tips led to a Sacramento dismantling yard, where the vehicle was found.

The car has been impounded for evidence, and investigators have found a "person of interest," who has been interviewed, according to a CHP news release.

The investigation into the traffic collision is continuing, but no arrests have been made, according to the news release.

The CHP asks that any witnesses to the collision call the Woodland CHP office at (530) 662-4685.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.



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