TURLOCK — Police said they are not getting much help in their investigation into a crash that killed a Delhi teenager over the weekend. Thursday, investigators released surveillance photos from a convenience store showing a "person of interest" in the case.
Taylor Vessel, 18, died early Saturday after she was ejected from a car that crashed into a house in the 1200 block of Lander Avenue, said Turlock police Sgt. Stephen Webb. The driver, believed to be a man, fled the scene.
The incident began when an officer spotted two cars parked behind a strip mall near Marshall Street and Golden State Boulevard at 3:25 a.m., police said.
"The officer puts on his spotlight, and as soon as he does that, one car takes off at a high rate of speed," Webb said. The officer followed the car, which sped south down Golden State Boulevard before turning right on F Street.
As the officer drove down F Street, he saw taillights on Ninth Street. "As he goes up Lander to make a U-turn, he catches out of his peripheral vision where a collision occurred," Webb said.
The car, a silver Chevrolet Malibu, hit a tree and then a house. Nobody in the home was injured, police said.
Witnesses said the driver ran from the scene.
Webb said preliminary reports that the car may have been stolen proved to be untrue.
A woman, believed to be the woman in the surveillance photos provided by police Thursday, owns the car. During the investigation, police learned she had been at the convenience store earlier in the night. She was not in the car when it crashed.
"She's not cooperating with the investigation," Webb said. Police would not identify her, citing the ongoing investigation.
Thursday, the crash scene had been turned into a memorial to Vessel. Deep track marks ended at the tree, which was scarred where the Malibu hit it. At the base of the tree, friends and family left candles, bracelets, flowers and a balloon.
One card apparently came from a cousin, Alex, who lives nearby, and expressed regret at not being there when Vessel died.
"I don't know if I would've been able to save," the handwritten message read, "but at least I could have been there to hold you and help you feel better."
Family members described Vessel as a shy girl who was just starting to come into her own as a student at Merced College. She studied criminology and was trying to decide between a career in criminal justice and crime scene investigation, according to her mother, Toni Garcia.
Friday night, Vessel planned to spend the night with a friend in Modesto, then head to San Francisco the next day. Her family has no idea what happened that night or why the owner of the car, whom they described as Vessel's best friend, won't cooperate with police.
"We're just in shock," Garcia said. "We're disgusted and we would like them to come forward and tell us what really happened that night."
Services are scheduled Saturday. Friends have established a memorial fund at Farmers and Merchants Bank and at gofundme.com to help with expenses.
"She was the only girl in the family," Garcia said of her daughter, who has two brothers. "She was the baby. She was our everything."
Investigators ask anyone with information about the case to contact officer Joe Dusel at (209) 664-7380.