TURLOCK — Almost three months after the body of 16-year-old Julia Gonzalez turned up dead in Pedretti Park, police and medical investigators still are searching for a cause of death.
At about 5 feet and 85 pounds, Gonzalez’s body was found fully clothed by passers-by early Dec. 30 after a night of freezing temperatures. There were no signs of physical trauma or injury. 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’s deputy coroner, said Monday.
Leach would not discuss the toxicology report, which would show what was eaten, swallowed or drunk, until the final cause of death is determined.
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From the start, police have stressed it is not a homicide investigation. It’s a death investigation, which translates to a lower-priority status 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,” said Turlock Police Chief Gary Hampton.
Police are waiting on the sexual assault or sexual activity kit. There is no indication or belief that any type of sex crime happened, but the testing is “standard protocol” in questionable deaths, said Capt. Rob Jackson.
Gonzalez 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 between 7 p.m. at 5 a.m. the next day when the body was discovered, but did say they’ve talked to Gonzalez’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.”
Originally from the Los Angeles area, Gonzalez moved to Turlock in the eighth grade. When the family moved back south two years ago, she decided to stay with her grandmother.