Amy Freeseha approached everything she did with zeal -- riding horses, staying fit, tailoring her son's diet to meet his needs.
So it was no surprise when she took off from her sister's house on a Friday evening for a jog with her 10-year-old niece -- posting on her Facebook page that she wanted to start the girl's healthy habits early.
"She just had so much energy," said Freeseha's sister, Bobbie Mejias. "I don't know where she got it."
Freeseha, 25, of Copperopolis died after a sport utility vehicle hit her as she ran along a rural Stanislaus County road east of Riverbank on July 22. California Highway Patrol investigators are looking for the driver of a 1997-99 Chevrolet Suburban.
Officer Chuck Leon said Friday that the CHP continues to chase leads but hadn't made any headway.
The night Freeseha was hit, Mejias was hanging laundry outside her Claribel Road home when her cell phone rang. She didn't recognize the number, so she left it for later. Then firetrucks and an ambulance sped by.
"I watched them, hoping they didn't turn down that road," Mejias said. "Then when they did, I listened to my voice mail. It was the woman my daughter had run to for help."
Mejias flagged down a CHP officer, who drove her to the scene.
"I was watching them take care of my sister," Mejias said. "It's difficult. I had to watch her lay there."
Eventually, officers told Mejias what happened and led her to her daughter, in a nearby firetruck.
"She was just so frantic," Mejias said. "She thought it was her fault. The EMTs told her, if she wasn't there, there wouldn't have been anyone to help (Amy). It would have been hours before we knew."
Freeseha left behind a 4-year-old son, Jonathan, and 3-year-old daughter, Adeline. Jonathan is autistic; Freeseha tried to counteract the diagnosis with diet.
"She'd check every label," said her mother, Penny Crouch, who helped care for the children while Freeseha worked at a San Andreas mine tour company. "She wouldn't let you even use a knife from regular bread for his food."
Crouch and Mejias said the effort seemed to be working. Jonathan recently started talking and working on his ABCs.
They said they haven't seen the children since the day after Freeseha died. They left with their father, who is a Marine stationed in San Diego.
Matt Freeseha, the children's paternal grandfather, said the two are "doing great. They're young. But every now and then, you can tell they wonder about their mother."
Though Amy and John Freeseha recently completed a difficult divorce, Matt Freeseha said his family intends to ensure Crouch and Mejias remain involved in the children's lives.
Crouch said she hopes that talking about her daughter will help find the person responsible for her death.
"I don't like cameras," she said softly. "I'm not doing this to be in the newspaper. I'm doing this for my daughter. They don't know what they did to my grandchildren."
Mejias and Crouch said without an arrest, the whole incident doesn't seem real.
"We keep wondering when she's going to walk through the door with the kids," Majias said.
Last words to her children
Freeseha's children were everything to her, Mejias said.
"Before she left that night, she hugged Jonathan and said, 'You'll always be my little man.' Then she grabbed her daughter and said, 'You're my bestest friend, for always,' " Mejias said. "She always did that before she left to do anything. Those were the last words she said to them."
The CHP asks anyone with information on the case to call officer Rubin Perez at 545-7440.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.