TURLOCK -- Almost three months after the body of 16-year-old Julia Gonzalez was found in Pedretti Park, police and medical investigators still are searching for a cause of death.
Passers-by found her body early Dec. 30 after a night of freezing temperatures. There were no signs of physical trauma or injury, and the 5-foot, 85-pound girl was fully clothed. Many have speculated that something was ingested, either drugs or toxic amounts of alcohol.
"We're doing additional testing, and when we see those results, our pathologist will finalize the report stating the cause of death," Misty Leach, Stanislaus County deputy coroner, said Monday.
Leach would not discuss the toxicology report, which would show what Julia ate, swallowed or drank, until the cause of death is determined.
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From the start, police have stressed that the case is not a homicide investigation. It's a death investigation, which gives it a lower priority at the Department of Justice laboratory in Ripon, where forensic testing is conducted.
"People watch TV and think police can turn around forensic evidence in an hour. That's just not reality," Turlock Police Chief Gary Hampton said.
Police also are waiting for results from the sexual assault or sexual activity kit. There is no indication any sex crime happened, but the testing is standard protocol in questionable deaths, Capt. Rob Jackson said.
Julia lived with her grandmother about three miles from Pedretti Park. She had been reported as a runaway at least twice, but she left the house on good terms the night before her death.
She said goodbye to her grandmother about 7 p.m. and left with three friends in a car. Police won't say what happened from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day, when her body was discovered, but they have said they've talked to Julia's friends and everyone has been cooperative.
"We have assumptions right now," Jackson said, "but we're not going to jump out ahead and say what we think happened until all the experts have weighed in."
Julia was from the Los Angeles area and moved to Turlock with her family when she was in eighth grade. When her family moved back to Southern California two years ago, Julia decided to stay with her grandmother.
Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2391.