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Friends Arrested as Suspects in Brutal Death of California Woman Left to Die on Side of Road

By Zack Stieber

Two people have been arrested as suspects in the murder of a California teenager left to die on the side of a road.

Daniel Gross, 19, and Melissa Leonardo, 25, both of Modesto, were arrested on Feb. 13 over the murder of Lizette Andrea Cuesta, 19.

Police officers found a “tremendous” amount of evidence at the home shared by the suspects, an Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesman told the Modesto Bee.

Cuesta named her killers in her dying declaration to first responders, leading officers to search the home.

“From the time we discovered Lizette (whom passers-by found suffering multiple stab wounds along Tesla Road in a remote area of Alameda County) to the time we got to Modesto was critical in the preservation of the crime scene,” Sgt. Ray Kelly, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, told The Bee.

“The evidence and Lizette’s statements to us helped make this investigation unfold very rapidly.”

Detectives told Fox40 that Gross and Leonardo stabbed Cuesta several times before tying her up and leaving her for dead on Tesla Road in Livermore in the early hours of Monday.

According to KRON4, Investigators believe Cuesta crawled more than 100 yards along the side of the road before she was found.

“She survived for quite a bit of time against tremendous odds and was left there for dead,” Kelly told the Bee.

Richard Loadholt and a friend found her at around 2 a.m. He told KRON4 that he was driving when he saw her.

He and the friend got out and tried to comfort her as they waited for help to arrive.

One of Cuesta’s friends told the Fox40 that Cuesta, Gross, and Leonardo were friends.

Montana Howland, who considers Leonardo his sister, added that jealousy could have been a factor in the killing, but they struggled to comprehend how anything could have led to such a deed.

“Daniel has always talked about if someone [expletive] him off bad enough he will kill them,” Howland said. “But Melissa is the only one with a car and she goes everywhere Daniel goes, so that’s probably the reason she got (dragged) into it.”

A fundraiser on GoFundMe has been set up for the deceased teen’s family.

“We are raising money to help the family of Lizette in this very tragic and difficult time. Any and all donations will be greatly appreciated,” said a family friend.

 

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