Valley community holds fundraiser for Graciela Martinez's funeral

FRESNO, Calif.

Graciela Martinez's body was discovered inside her brother's car Wednesday after school. The preliminary autopsy results point to heat stroke as the cause of death.

On Sunday, dozens of volunteers gathered outside a Madera Walgreen's to hold a car wash to help the family of Graciela. "As a parent, it hits so close to home. It can happen to anybody. It's a tragic event," said Trish Gonzales.

Gonzales organized the car wash to raise money to help bury Graciela, a Madera South High freshman found dead in the school's parking lot Wednesday.

"I didn't know her personally but it doesn't change anything. I figured let's try to get something going, raise money, help the family, make them feel comfortable," said Gonzales. "It's not going to take away the pain but it's going to help with the burden of the finances."

The modest family says it is struggling to pay for funeral costs and many in the community are stepping up. "I really appreciate it that they're coming out to help her and her family," said Noemi Santos, one of Graciela's friends. Santos was one of a few volunteers washing cars who actually knew Graciela. "She was pretty nice. She would always have good grades. She was really funny," said Santos.

Like many of her classmates, she was shocked to hear of Graciela's tragic death. "I couldn't believe it when I heard about it," said classmate, Samantha Martinez.

Police say the 14 year old was found trapped in her brother's car. Preliminary autopsy results point to heat stroke as the cause of death. "It's such a tragedy, I talk about it and you just get the chills all over again," said Gonzales.

Now the community is trying to make sure Graciela's memory lives on.

More than $2,000 was raised at the car wash fundraiser. Graciela will be laid to rest on Tuesday.

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