FRESNO COUNTY, CA – An eight-year-old child lost her life on November 12th when she got out of her mother’s SUV to flee as her mother was being victimized by her boyfriend.
The child, Maria Ortiz, who left the SUV to get away, was struck and killed by a passing motorist as she walked down the road.
The incident unfolded before 10 pm on the 12th when Ortiz’s mother, who was driving an SUV became the victim of domestic violence at the hands of her boyfriend, 51-year-old Juan Del Toro, who was in the passenger seat.
The California Highway Patrol reported that the alleged attack from Del Toro caused Ortiz’s mother to pull over on the side of the road.
California Highway Patrol Sergeant Mike Salas spoke about the investigation:
“He [Del Toro] was the aggressor towards the driver. The driver, fearing for her safety, pulled over to the right shoulder.”
— ABC30 Fresno (@ABC30) November 14, 2021
Police have not said whether they believe that Ortiz was going to get help or simply trying to get away from the situation when she exited the car. They also have not specified if Ortiz’s mother or Del Toro even noticed that she had gotten out of the SUV before she was struck.
The California Highway Patrol said that Ortiz was struck by an elderly driver who was unable to see Ortiz as she walked down the middle of the busy highway due to the heavy fog that had blanketed the area.
Because of the weather conditions, the elderly driver was unable to avoid striking and killing Ortiz. The unnamed driver stayed for police to arrive and has been cooperating with the investigation.
California Highway Patrol responded to the scene and learned of the circumstances surrounding the little girl’s death.
While conducting their investigation, they noticed that Ortiz’s mother seemed to be impaired and eventually arrested her for DUI. Del Toro was also arrested for a battery charge, believed to be from his alleged attack on Ortiz’s mother. Salas added:
“A tragedy in total. We have domestic violence, we have driving under the influence and now we have the death of an 8-year-old child.”
The DUI and domestic battery charge that both Ortiz’s mother and Del Toro face are the least of their concern.
There will be a criminal investigation that will work toward determining if both should face additional charges for neglect and or endangerment of Ortiz which will be more substantial as the child lost her life as a result.
Authorities have identified a young girl who they say was hit and killed by a vehicle while walking along a foggy roadway in Fresno County on Friday night.https://t.co/bqnC1dMr91
— KSEE24 News (@KSEE24) November 14, 2021
ABC30 spoke to Charity Susnick who works at the Marjaree Mason Center about the incident. She told them:
“When someone is experiencing trauma, they just want it to stop. They want to get out. So in many cases, yes, you’ll see something tragic happen as a result of just wanting to escape what’s happening in that situation and in that moment.”
Susnick urges those that may be in a relationship that is either physically or emotionally abusive to seek help if they are not able to leave on their own. For those that do not have someone they want to turn to, she adds that you call 911 if there is immediate danger or to seek help from a domestic abuse hotline. She said:
“If you’re in immediate danger, call 911. Call law enforcement. If you’re in a situation where you and your children can get out safely, we encourage you to call our hotline number, that’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
A young girl died Friday night after being hit by a car while her parents were involved in a domestic dispute, Fresno officials said. https://t.co/mLz9Rt0qb3
— KGET 17 News (@KGETnews) November 15, 2021
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office is asking for help determining the history of this case and potential abuse against Ortiz and her mother. They are asking anyone who knows anything to contact them:
“If you have information about this domestic violence incident or if you were in the area and have information that could help law enforcement, you’re asked to call Fresno County Sheriff Sgt. Chad Stokes at 559-600-8144.”
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Police responded to the home on Newell Lane that the couple shared for a domestic dispute. Glastonbury police described the crime scene as being full of blood with many signs of a struggle.
It’s something that would have been fitting for a horror movie.
Glastonbury Police reported that the suspect in the case, Lori Lee, 58 years old, had allegedly been involved in an argument with her wife who has not been identified. During the argument, Lee armed herself with what is described as a hatchet.
Police allege that Lee began violently striking her wife about her face and head with the hatchet. At some point during the altercation, the police and medics were notified and responded.
When police arrived, they were able to separate both parties and get Lee’s wife to safety. The victim was transported to a local hospital where she was treated for what appears as non-life-threatening injuries. It is unknown if she is still in the hospital or if she has been released.
When they questioned Lee about the incident, the Glastonbury Police Department alleges that Lee admitted that she and her wife had been having an argument over their marriage when her wife cut her hand with some type of object.
For whatever reason, Lee claimed it was then that she went into the garage and retrieved the hatchet. Lee claims that she only struck her wife in the head once with the hatchet.
A detective who interviewed Lee and the victim on the night of the incident recounted how the wife thought that she and Lee were having a nice evening with no issues. That is until she felt the hatchet striking her in the head as she was putting dog food down.
Allegedly, the victim said that she fell to the ground and Lee continued striking her about the face and head with the hatchet. The victim recounted at least three to four blows to the head.
The victim told police that every time she attempted to get off the ground Lee would strike her in the head.
The victim told police that she believed that Lee was trying to kill her. She was rushed to a hospital for medical treatment after the police secured the scene.
According to the report, when the victim arrived at Hartford Hospital, the treating doctor viewed the wounds and stated they could have been caused by a hatchet or some other similar type of device. T
he doctor said that the victim received wounds to the back of the neck, top of the head, and the back of her shoulder. The doctor also allegedly said the blows to the head caused a skull fracture.
Glastonbury Police Detective Peter Brander interviewed Lee at the scene and he alleges that she repeatedly apologized for the incident. He went further and claims that Lee called herself an evil person and that she did not want to hurt her wife. Bander said:
“She alternated between crying, speaking animated and with intensity, and apathy. She had trouble keeping on topic and needed to be redirected from time to time.”
Police noted in the report that throughout the investigation, Lee had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from her person. When asked, Lee stated she had ingested eight beers but stated she was not intoxicated. Police also allege that Lee told them that she knew she had done something wrong.
The Glastonbury Police Department placed Lee under arrest for attempted murder, disorderly conduct, and assault in the first degree. According to the press arrest log:
“An investigation revealed that Lori Lee had struck her spouse over the head with a hatchet several times, causing serious injury to the female victim. The victim was transported to the hospital but is expected to recover from her injuries. Lee was held on a $500,000 bond.”
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