Friday, September 12, 2008

CHP: Ford Taurus killed 14-year-old girl


California Highway Patrol officials have determined the vehicle that struck and killed 14-year-old Christina Veloz-Payne in the northbound lanes of Highway 101 last week was a 1996-1998 Ford Taurus.
Lt. Dane Lobb said investigators came to this conclusion based on physical evidence gathered at the scene. He said other information, such as the color of the vehicle, is being withheld.

Lobb said the investigation is being considered a hit-and-run collision, which could warrant a felony charge.
“You hit somebody and you cause their death and you don’t stop at the scene and render aid; that is considered felony hit-and-run,” he said. “There is suspicion that a crime was committed.”
The involved vehicle likely sustained damage to its right or left front end including a broken head light, according to a statement released to media yesterday by the CHP. The statement also said the vehicle’s hood and roof could be damaged.
Christina’s body was found in the bushes along the highway north of Storke Road on Thursday Sept. 4, nearly two days after she had gone missing.
The girl was last seen alive on Labor Day at the City of Goleta’s annual firework celebration at Girsh Park. Christina reportedly told her friends she planned to walk home prior to the beginning of the fireworks show at 8 p.m.
Officials believe Christina was struck sometime in the late evening on Sept. 1, or early morning on Sept. 2.
The girl’s body was found about a half-mile away from her house on San Milano Drive, which is located in a neighborhood just below Dos Pueblos High School.
Some in the neighborhood told the Daily Sound that young people regularly cross the freeway as a shortcut between the school and the Camino Real Marketplace, which is on the opposite side of the freeway from where the girl’s body was found.
Judi Rojo, whose grandchildren were close friends with the victim, told the Daily Sound on Sept. 4 that officials have talked about constructing a footbridge over the highway in the past, but nothing ever came of it.
“Everybody goes across the freeway to go to DP,” she said. “I’m sure she was crossing the freeway. That’s how they get back and forth.”
Rosemarie Gaglione, a capital improvement program manager for the City of Goleta, told the Daily Sound on Sept. 4 that the city intends to conduct studies in the near future on the feasibility of constructing a full-fledged traffic overpass in the area.
In a prepared statement released to media yesterday, Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett confirmed initial studies are underway. He said the City Council last month allocated $300,000 to determine the best place for an overpass on the west end of Goleta.
Bennett said the likelihood of such an overpass would greatly increase if voters approve Measure A, a half-cent sales tax that would be used for transportation projects. Some of the resulting money, about $7 million, would be used to build an overpass in the area, Bennett said.
“Our community needs to know that they can play at Girsh Park, go to Dos Pueblos High School, shop at the Marketplace or throw a Frisbee at Evergreen Open Space and be able to get home safely and in a timely manner,” he said. “We cannot bring Christina back, but we can try and prevent another child [from] risking their life to get home by taking a short cut.”
CHP officials urge anyone who has information about the accident to contact investigators at 805-967-1234, or 805-477-4174. Those with information can also contact Santa Barbara Crime Stoppers tip line at 877-800-9100.

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