After being brutally stabbed and dumped on the side of a remote road in California, a 19-year-old woman “fought” to stay alive and help authorities identify her killers, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.
Suffering from multiple life-threatening stab wounds and other injuries, Lizette Andrea Cuesta was able to drag herself to the side of a road in Livermore, California, when a car saw her around 2 a.m. Monday morning and quickly called for help, police said.
Richard Loadholt, who was carpooling to an early shift at UPS with three friends, spotted the bloodied teen, Fox40 reported. The group pulled over, covered Cuesta in a blanket, and prayed with her to keep her awake and talking until officials arrived.
“She laid down for almost three minutes at one period, and we told her to get up. She knew she had to get up and I commend that,” Loadholt told Fox40, adding that the teen was so bloody he couldn’t make out the color of her hair.
Cuesta was in such a dire state that first responders quickly deployed a Life Flight helicopter to take her to a nearby hospital.
“We’re not sure how long she was left there like that,” Sgt. Ray Kelly, Alameda County Sheriff’s spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News. “She was really suffering but she stayed with us and really fought to live.”
She remained alive for about two more hours. While it was not enough time for her family to see her before she died, the 19-year-old was able to tell authorities who was responsible for her death.
“She stayed present and gave us compelling information before she died,” Kelly said, estimating that the incident surrounding her death “unfolded in a matter of twelve hours.”
Hours later, authorities arrested Daniel Gross, 19, and Melissa Leonardo, 25, in Modesto, California, about 50 miles away from where Cuesta was found. They are being held in Santa Rita Jail on suspicion of murder.
“We know the three were friends and [Cuesta] got into the car consensually that night,” Kelly said. “The two suspects are in a relationship and live together but we are still gathering information as to why this happened.”
There was “substantial evidence” left at the crime scene and investigators believe the teen had been tied up, Kelly added.
“She was a very strong person, a beautiful girl,” he said. “She was fighting to survive and part of that fight was helping us find the people who did this.”
Cuesta studied at San Jose City College and loved to skateboard, according to her Facebook and family members.
“She absolutely loved to skate,” Amparo Lopez, Cuesta’s aunt, told BuzzFeed News Tuesday. “She was a loveable person and very smart.”
Cuesta was the oldest of three and leaves behind a younger brother and sister, said the 26-year-old, who lives nearby in Stockton.
“She never judged people and was always friendly to everyone,” her aunt continued. “My heart is broken. I just can’t believe it.”
Lopez and her cousin set up a GoFundMe account to help the teen’s family pay for funeral expenses.