Crime - Sacto 911

North Highlands woman identified as victim in Wednesday night attack

A driver died Wednesday night in North Highlands after a pedestrian slashed her throat from behind during a chance encounter in which she stopped her car to approach the man, authorities said.

The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office identified the victim Thursday as Nichole Riolo, 32, of North Highlands.

Juan V. Avalos, 28, of Sacramento is suspected in the killing and was booked into the Sacramento County jail at 5:30 a.m. Thursday.

Sacramento County sheriff’s investigators believe the woman was driving south on Watt Avenue when Avalos caught her attention. He was walking in the roadway, deputies said.

Perhaps he threw something at Riolo’s car or shouted at her, Sgt. Lisa Bowman said, or maybe she thought she clipped him with her vehicle as she drove past.

When Riolo got out of her car and approached him, deputies said, Avalos started acting belligerently. She headed back to her car, but Avalos attacked her from behind, deputies said. She did not know the man, according to deputies.

Witnesses initially summoned authorities to report an assault in progress, Bowman said. But when onlookers saw the man take off running and Riolo stagger to a parking lot where she later collapsed, they knew it was much worse than that.

Riolo was declared dead by medical personnel in the parking lot in the 7400 block of Watt Avenue, according to the Coroner’s Office. Her time of death is listed as 10:13 p.m.

It was not clear what kind of weapon the attacker used.

When Avalos was arrested, detectives said, he seemed intoxicated or may have been suffering from mental health issues.

Call The Bee’s Marissa Lang, (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter at @Marissa_Jae. The Bee’s Bill Lindelof contributed to this report

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