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November 16, 2009

Two Years Since Carissa Nwene's Death

Today is the second anniversary of the death of 13-year old Carissa Nwene. The vehicle and the driver who killed her have still not been found.

Carissa Nwene's Memorial (0555)

CITY OF DESERT HOT SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT

PRESS RELEASE – UPDATED – NOVEMBER 16, 2009

INCIDENT: Ongoing Investigation of FATAL HIT & RUN / HOMICIDE

DATE OF INITIAL INCIDENT: NOVEMBER 16TH, 2007

LOCATION OF INITIAL INCIDENT: Palm Dr. South of Camino Campesino, DHS

INFORMATION:

At 8:28 AM on the morning of November 16, 2007, we received a call of a young female lying severely injured in a field adjacent to Palm Dr. — a major four lane thoroughfare which bisects our city.

Officers arrived and found injuries to Carissa Nwene which indicated she was struck by a passing vehicle and hurtled off the roadway into the field. In spite of the efforts undertaken to save Carissa, she never regained consciousness and died as a result of her injuries.

Investigation revealed that Carissa Nwene left her home and was walking to school in the desert area adjacent to the east side of Palm around 7:30 AM that morning. It is believed she was discovered up to 45 minutes after she was struck.

The vehicle responsible for Carissa’s death is believed to be a White 2003 to 2005 Ford E series [Econoline] panel van [E-150, E-250 or E-350]. The vehicle would have sustained damage to its right front turn signal corner.

This section of Palm Dr. is well traveled and her being struck by this vehicle would have been clearly visible to anyone looking in that direction at the time.

The community is being asked to please continue to assist us with information as we continue to investigate this tragedy in order to identify the driver responsible for Carissa's death.

This investigation is on-going and the public's assistance is requested.

Anyone with information is being asked to call the DHS PD at (760) 329-2904. Information relating to this press release can be directed to Sgt. Dan Bressler: (760) 329-6411 ext 315.


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The accident happened on Friday, November 16, 2007, at about 7:30 AM on the east side of Palm Drive, between Camino Aventura and Camino Campesino. The weather the was just as fine as it was this morning: clear, sunny and dry. We know that at that hour southbound traffic would have been heavy, and there would have been a fair amount of northbound traffic as well. Other children would have been on their way to school. There is a SunLine bus stop on the west side of Palm near Camino Aventura. We know someone saw something.

What they saw may not have appeared to be a van hitting a schoolgirl. A probably-white Ford van may have braked or swerved suddenly. The driver may have even stopped and then gone on his way. So it could have simply appeared to be a reckless or careless driver.

The driver was heading northbound into Desert Hot Springs. That morning two years ago someone in Desert Hot Springs must have encountered a driver of a Ford Econoline van who was behaving strangely - fear and guilt will do that to you.

Although now the police are saying it was probably a white Ford Econoline van from 2003, 2004 or 2005, Detective Sergeant Dan Bressler said they did not want to rule out reports on similar vans from 1996 or 1997, as earlier reported. In short, it's a Ford Econoline van, 1996 - 2005, with damage to the right front corner. The driver has been sure to get that vehicle far away from Desert Hot Springs, but it's possible that others assisted in that.

Even though they stil get leads, Desert Hot Springs police say they have reached a "dead end" in their investigation, having followed every lead over a wide geographical area. Videos from the SunLine bus and nearby businesses have been examined and produced no helpful information.

Governor Schwarzenegger has been asked to provide a $50,000 reward for information to help solve this case. The police hope to remind people that this is still an ongoing case and shake loose information from witnesses who may not even realize they were witnesses.

The man to call is Sgt. Dan Bressler at (760) 329-6411 ext 315. Anonymous reports are welcome.

Triton V8 emblem
The police found something like this Triton V8 emblem, so the vehicle must have been a V8. The appearance of the Ford Econoline van doesn't change much over the years, and the E150, E250 and E350 look pretty much the same. Most of the vehicles are white, but the police don't know that the vehicle they are searching for is white. Here are some generic images of Ford Econoline vans:
2005 Ford Econoline E150
2005 E150.

2003 Ford Econoline E350 Converted
2003 E350.
The evidence the police have comes from the front of the vehicle, so we don't know what the rear end may look like.

2003 Ford Econoline E250
2003 E250.

2003 Ford Econoline E150
2003 E150.

1997 Ford Econoline
1997 Econoline.

1996 Ford Econoline E150
1996 E150.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | November 16, 2009 at 01:51 PM

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