Two teenage women found dead under mysterious circumstances in a Los Angeles park that has a history of crime are raising police and community member alarm.
Gabriela Calzada, 19, and Briana Nicole Gallegos, 17, were discovered when a woman walking her dog in Ernest E. Debs Regional Park came across the young women’s bodies on Wednesday.
Both bodies showed signs of blunt force trauma according to KTLA, which also reported that friends of Gallegos identified the teen on social media. The city coroner identified Calzada the next day according to the New York Daily News.
Los Angeles police have opened a homicide investigation into the deaths. Three other attacks in 2014 at the Montecito Heights area park were noted in the Daily News report, but it remains uncertain if the suspect in those cases in connected to the more recent deaths. No connection has yet been made. A sketch of the suspect in those cases has been released and it was noted that he had become increasingly bold in his attacks.
“We’re on high alert. We’re worried,” Capt. Patricia Sandoval said Thursday according to the Daily News. “It’s very alarming, especially for anybody that’s a runner, a hiker or a walker who uses that park regularly and thinks, ‘Am I in harm’s way now?’
The L.A. Times reported on the three 2014 incidents. The first involved groping, in the second a man exposed his genitals to a woman in close proximity and the third involved a man with a knife punching a woman in the face, knocking her to the ground. In at least one attack the man spoke to the victim in Spanish.
Modern Hiker referred to one of the attacks in a July 2014 post. Community members were referenced in the statement as connecting the behavior as similar to incidents occurring at nearby Griffith Park earlier in the year.
Many visitors have rated the park very highly on the review site Yelp for its trails and views while a few did note the deaths of the two young women. While most reviews were positive a couple noted more troubling incidents. One noted noontime sexual activity on a trail park bench.
At least two 2007 cases of sexual assault and kidnapping that occurred around noon involved suspect Hugo Gutierrez. Victims from two separate incidents picked him out of a lineup. Detectives believed Gutierrez was responsible for other assaults as well.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana