Investigators look at door locks in Madera girl death

September 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A high school student was found dead in a car at Madera High South Wednesday. Authorities say there may have been a problem with the locks on the car door, keeping her from getting out.

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UPDATE: Madera teen likely died of heat stroke, according to early autopsy results
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Police said 14-year-old Graciela Martinez had been taken to the hospital by her brother after he discovered her dead inside a vehicle Wednesday afternoon. Investigators said the girl had gone with her brother to school. He had an early class and she stayed behind in the vehicle because her class started an hour later.

Police said after school, the brother went back to his car to find his sister in the back seat.

Investigators examined the car where the teenager died, and believe the teen may have died of heat exhaustion. An autopsy was underway Thursday to determine the exact cause of death. Family members are still in shock as they come to terms with the sudden tragedy.

A memorial at the home Graciela Martinez lived with her parents and siblings displays all the things the 14- year-old loved. Whopper sandwiches, Gatorade, and her favorite outfit. While her family mourns her devastating death, Madera Police are trying to find answers her family desperately wants.

The teen's mother told police her daughter had no prior medical problems. "The mother reported that she was healthy never had any medical issues, never had any health issues. She was healthy the day she went to school," Robert Salas with the Madera Police Department said.

Thursday morning, investigators re-inspected the 1997 BMW Martinez was in the back seat of, when her sister found her drenched in sweat and unresponsive- at the end of the school day Wednesday.

Police say a preliminary investigation has revealed there may be a problem with the door locks. When the door is locked with the key from the outside, people inside may not be able to get out.

"It appears there may be a defective locking system on the car but we are still need to do further tests to determine if that's true and correct," Salas said.

At Madera South High School, counselors were on campus to talk with grieving students. The superintendent said his heart goes out to the freshman's loved ones.

"I would ask the community to put their collective arms around this family as they go through a very dark time," Edward Gonzalez Madera Unified Superintendent said.

As police look for clues and evidence, they are finding the case is becoming even more tragic. Detectives have found, unless the key is in the ignition, the horn doesn't work either. Not only that, Graciela had no food, or water in the car with her. She also didn't have a cellphone.


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