A 20-year-old mother of two died of head injuries Monday when she jumped from a moving minivan, according to Brea police, who said the driver left the scene but was later located and questioned.
The Anaheim woman was fatally injured at 1:26 a.m. on Imperial Highway at Laurel Avenue, Brea police Sgt. Chris Haddad told City News Service.
She was a passenger in a tan minivan, which initially came to a stop, with two other women getting out to tend to her, Haddad said.
The driver left the scene and “was missing for several hours,” Brea police Lt. Adam Hawley said. “We were able to quickly determine who the driver was and what kind of vehicle he was driving, and we ended up locating him and taking into custody for questioning at his house in Los Angeles County.”
The driver, whose name was withheld, was released as police continued to investigate, Hawley said.
“We still have a lot of questions here,” he said. “Some of them might not be answered until we get a coroner’s report.”
“It’s not normal behavior for someone to leave a moving vehicle under these kind of circumstances, and that causes us concern and obviously we have questions that we’re trying to ask and get to the bottom of,” Hawley said.
The driver and the three women in the van had been hanging out at a local park in Brea and were heading to a nearby acquaintance’s home, Hawley said.
Police said the minivan was traveling about 40 mph when the woman opened a passenger door. She was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where she was pronounced dead.
Authorities did not release the woman’s name, but relatives who gathered at the scene identified her as 20-year-old Dezirae Mendoza.
“She had the world in front of her. 20 years old,” her cousin, Frank Madrid, told reporters. “… She was happy woman. She loved her kids. She was striving to do better in her life for her kids and do the best for them. She had goals and ambitions and she was chasing them down. So there really is no answer now for the family on why this happened.”
According to ABC7, the woman’s family said she texted a relative not long before her death, saying she didn’t know the man driving the vehicle and she saw a bat, gloves and tape in the van. Those details were not confirmed by police.
Police were looking for surveillance video from the area or other witness accounts. Anyone with helpful information was asked to call police at (714) 990-7625.
Friends and relatives of the dead woman told reporters that she lived with her father and her two young sons, ages 4 and 9 months.