TURLOCK -- More than 100 mourners gathered Wednesday in a grove of young pine trees where Julia Alexis Gonzalez, a vibrant 16-year-old, was found dead Friday. Family and friends lit candles, shared stories and pleaded for information on what happened to her.
Police are waiting for toxicology reports to determine the cause of death. Gonzalez sustained no physical trauma or assault, was well-dressed and appeared well cared for, police said after an autopsy Monday. Passers-by found the girl's body early Friday.
Gonzalez lived with her grandmother, Darlene Gonzalez, and moved between Pitman and Roselawn high schools. She also leaves behind her mother, Cynthia Gonzalez, brothers Anthony and Michael Gonzalez and a sister, Vanessa Marie Gonzalez, all of Whittier.
"She's going to leave a big hole in this family," Darlene Gonzalez said. "She was a little tiny person with a huge personality."
Originally from the Los Angeles area, Julia Gonzalez moved to Turlock in the eighth grade. When the family moved south again two years ago, she decided to stay with her grandmother because of her friends, her grandmother said. She was described by everyone as a typical teen: friends, a cell phone, MySpace. She loved to cook and would surprise her family with full meals.
Darlene Gonzalez saw her granddaughter get into a car with a young man the night before her body was found. What happened between then and 5 a.m. the next day remains a mystery, but police have said everyone who was with the girl has been interviewed and is cooperative.
Police Chief Gary Hampton and Detective Sgt. Jeff Lopes stood with the group, mostly young people, paying their respects Wednesday.
After prayers and a rendition of "Sweep Me Away," pleas were made for more information.
"There's a lot of hearsay, a lot of rumor," said great-aunt Linda Lewis, "but if you know for sure, if you have the facts, you call (Detective) Brandon Bertram."
Bertram can be reached at 668-5550, ext. 6623. A memorial will be held today at Westside
Ministries in Turlock. Burial will be Saturday at Rose Hill Cemetery in Whittier.
Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2391.