A Chula Vista family is grieving and searching for answers in the mysterious death of a beloved, dedicated mother of two who was found lying in the street, lifeless, last week.
“Laura was a very lovable person; she was beautiful inside and out,” Ray Reyes, one of the woman’s brothers, told NBC 7 and Telemundo 20. “She was a very selfless person; never thought about herself before thinking about how she could help other people first.”
Reyes was talking about his sister, Laura Rodriguez, 33.
Rodriguez was found dead on Aug. 27 along the 200 block of Shasta Street near Second Avenue. According to the Chula Vista Police Department, she was unclothed and had suffered some sort of head trauma.
Right away, investigators deemed her death suspicious.
"It's a really sad scene," CVPD Lt. Dan Peak told NBC 7 that morning.
The CVPD’s Violent Crimes Unit took over the investigation.
On the day Rodriguez’s body was found, Peak said little was known about her death. The lieutenant said responding officers had not found any sort of gunshot or stab wounds on Rodriguez. They weren’t sure how she got there.
“At this time, we’re not sure if the person fell and hit their head, we’re not sure if this person was hit by a car, or if there’s some type of another manner of death," Peak said. "Hopefully the autopsy will reveal that.”
The San Diego County Medical Examiner Office was expected to conduct an autopsy on Rodriguez to determine her cause and manner of death. As of Wednesday, that report had not yet been released and the investigation was ongoing.
On Wednesday, Peak told Telemundo 20 and NBC 7 that investigators were working the case and there were no further details or updates at this time.
Reyes said Rodriguez was one of five siblings and a mother of two daughters, ages 14 and 12. She cared deeply about her family and, really, anyone she met. Reyes said he will always remember his sister as his “go-to” person.
“She would be the one to call if you needed help,” he said.
Reyes said he remembers sharing his struggles, challenges, and triumphs with his sister. She was always there to help guide him down the right path.
“She would help me get there,” said Reyes. “She always was trying to figure out how she could help me.”
“She has a big heart. She always wanted to make sure everybody around her was taken care of,” he added. “And she made everyone around her feel important because, you know, no matter what time of the day, you can call her, and she would answer.”
Reyes said Rodriguez’s love of helping others spilled into her work. He said she worked helping people file workers’ compensation claims.
Reyes said his family has started a GoFundMe account that will help cover Rodriguez’s memorial service and also help take care of her daughters. As of Wednesday morning, the page had raised nearly $44,000, far exceeding its goal of $16,000.
On that tribute page, the family called Rodriguez “a wonderful blessing” in their lives and echoed Reyes’ thoughts of Rodriguez’s selflessness.
“Laura dedicated her life to her family and loved ones, rarely took time for herself,” the family wrote on the GoFundMe page. “She loved to go on hikes and bike rides from Chula Vista to Silver Strand State Beach. Laura has helped countless people through rough times and would go out of her way to make sure the person in need was OK.”
Reyes said his sister’s dream was for her daughters to always be safe and taken care of. After the family pays for Rodriguez’s memorial, he said remaining donations will be used to take care of Rodriguez’s daughters and fulfill his sister’s dream.
“We’re going to do whatever we can for her. We will take care of my sister’s dream that she never wanted to worry about her daughters,” Reyes said. “That’s why she worked so hard. Her why every morning was her daughters. She loved them.”
Reyes said his family was never prepared for his sister’s death, much less her memorial.
While his family is still awaiting answers on what happened to his sister, he said Rodriguez’s case should serve as a reminder that if people see something wrong happening to another person, they should speak up and report it to law enforcement.
He said speaking up might just save someone’s life.
“If you see something that’s not right, voice it out – let somebody know,” Reyes said. “I would never want anyone to feel the pain that me and my family are feeling.”
A week later, a makeshift memorial for Rodriguez sits on Shasta Street in Chula Vista. The area is filled with photos of Rodriguez, candles, balloons, handwritten messages, and even sports memorabilia from her favorite team, the LA Dodgers.
Reyes told Telemundo 20 and NBC 7 that the candles and flowers are not only from Rodriguez’s family and friends but also from perfect strangers in the community.
He said they’ve been lighting the candles every night so that his sister knows “she’s being taken care of.”
“She knows that we’re here,” he added. “I’m here with her every night.”
Anyone with information on Rodriguez’s death can reach out to San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477. Tipsters may remain anonymous.