DUBLIN (CBS SF) — The father of the young woman left for dead along Tesla Road after a brutal stabbing attack on Tuesday remembered his daughter as “a fighter” who refused to let her assailants get away with their crime.
19-year-old Tracy resident Lizette Andrea Cuesta was identified by the Alameda County Sheriff’s office as the young woman who was viciously beaten and stabbed before being dumped near Tesla Road about two miles west of the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area early Monday morning.
After being found by Good Samaritans who called 911, Cuesta was airlifted to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley where she was pronounced dead at 4:30 a.m.
But before she died, Cuesta found the will to tell authorities who had killed her, giving sheriff’s deputies the information they needed to arrest two suspects in her murder hours later.
On Tuesday, her father Ray Cuesta was emotional as he spoke of his oldest child who was taken away from him, calling her “his angel.”
“She was always a fighter. She was always brave, strong, said Cuesta. “She was a leader; a go getter.”
On Monday, Alameda County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly spoke of the young woman’s tenacity and survival instincts in helping authorities catch the suspects so quickly.
“It’s a bittersweet moment for us in the fact that we do have the people responsible,” explained Kelly. “What we found in this case is that this victim really, really tried to survive. And she fought and she fought. The last thing we believe she was able to do was to point us in the direction of the people who killed her.”
Even though he was heartbroken by the loss, Ray Cuesta said that his daughter showed grit and determination right up until her death.
“I’m proud of her. She didn’t give up. She won. She showed them,” said Cuesta. “I know she passed away, but when they did this to her, they figured they got away with it. She didn’t let them get away with it. She brought peace to herself and peace to me and my family. I love her.”
Shortly before 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Alameda County Sheriff’s office Twitter account posted the identity of the victim as Cuesta.
The sheriff’s office also tweeted confirmation that the suspects arrested Monday were 19-year-old Modesto resident Daniel Gross and 25-year-old Modesto resident Melissa Leonardo. Both were booked and charged with murder Tuesday morning. They are both in custody at Santa Rita Jail.
Gross is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Dublin. The two suspects are reportedly in a relationship.
So far, authorities have not identified revealed any additional details as to what led to the gruesome beating and stabbing murder of Cuesta.
Good Samaritan Richard Loadholt was one of the people spotted Cuesta and called 911. He got out to comfort her until paramedics arrived.
“She said she felt she was going to die. I said, ‘No, you aren’t going to. You are going to sit up and you are going to be alright,'” Loadholt said. “She got up, she sat back up and at least held on.”
Cuestas uncles said that they appreciated what Loadhold did for their neice.
“We want to thank the Good Samaritans that helped her,” said her uncle Roberto Cuesta. “Not a lot of people would do that. We just want to reach out and, hopefully, one day we can talk.”
“We want to thank everybody that helped out. Everybody who made the phone call for my neice,” said Anthony Perez, another uncle. “Our family is devastated. It’s very hard for us to take.”
Friends and family of the young victim will gather for a candlelight vigil in her honor at the Great Oaks Skate Park in South San Jose at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Cuesta spent much of her off time at the skate park when she went to nearby Silver Creek High School. She graduated from the school in 2016.
Earlier Tuesday, someone came by with balloons and started a makeshift memorial for Cuesta.
Her friends were still in shock. Some actually heard about her death yesterday from family members who came by and shared the news.
A video from her Twitter feed confirms what friends said about Cuesta: that she was a determined skater.
The East Side Union High School District Superintendent released statement saying they are in shock and disbelief over the crime.
Silver Creek High School made grief counselors available to students on Tuesday.