A "tremendous" amount of evidence was found at the south Modesto home shared by 19-year-old Daniel Gross and 25-year-old Melissa Leonardo, the suspects in the murder of a Tracy teenager early Monday, an Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesman said.
And victim Lizette Cuesta's dying declaration to first responders, in which she named her killers, quickly led investigators to the home in the 1000 block of Nadine Avenue.
"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."
At a news conference in Alameda County on Tuesday, Kelly told reporters that investigators "have a lot to fill in as far as motive." The night of the murder, Cuesta got into the suspects' car consensually, Kelly said. After that, detectives have been "trying to put together what happened."
He said Gross and Leonardo both are believed to be complicit in her death. Detectives will work to determine if any others acted as accessories before or after the murder, he added.
Asked where the stabbing of the victim is believed to have occurred, Kelly told The Bee, "We have a very dynamic crime scene on Tesla Road ... I'm going to leave it at that."
San Francisco news station KRON reported Monday that authorities said it appears Cuesta was dumped from a car and left for dead. It said she crawled about 100 yards until a passerby spotted her about 2 a.m. and called 911. She was airlifted to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where she pronounced dead about 4:30 a.m.
"She survived for quite a bit of time against tremendous odds and was left there for dead," Kelly said.
On the evidence found at the Nadine Avenue home, the sergeant said at the news conference, "What it is and what it means to the case, we're not ready to say yet."
Kelly said Alameda County sheriff's investigators still were in the field Tuesday in Modesto and Tracy, "contacting all the people we need to."
His department is careful with the information it releases, to ensure the integrity of the investigation, Kelly noted. What's said is sure to stimulate conversations, and "we want to make sure we're ahead of those conversations."
He urged anyone with information on the case to contact the Sheriff's Office through its website or at ... Tipsters may remain anonymous, he said.
The Modesto Police Department has had no contact with Leonardo, spokeswoman Heather Graves said, and no contact with Gross since he was a minor.