Family Wants Answers After Daughter Killed by Lawn Mower

27-year-old woman was in overgrown area at Modesto, California park
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2023 3:36 PM CDT

Relatives of Christine Chavez, a 27-year-old woman killed in an apparent lawn mower accident in Modesto, California, say the police investigation was so careless that parts of her remains were left at the scene and they kept finding more during daily vigils. "I went there and I still have pieces of bones, like pieces of her skull and some teeth," father Christopher Chavez tells KTLA. "It's terrible." In what police say they believe was a "terrible accident," Chavez was run over by a landscaper pulling a mower behind a John Deere tractor in a park owned by a winery on July 8. The E&J Gallo Wine Co. said Chavez, who was unhoused, "was not visible and laying in a tall, weeded area."

Christopher Chavez says he has used similar equipment and he doesn't understand why the landscaper didn't see his daughter. Relatives say the fact that Chavez didn't hear the mower and get out of the way suggests something might have happened to her before she was run over. "Police told us that it was an accident and that's all," the father tells USA Today. "They don't care, they don't want to investigate." Relatives say Chavez, mother of a 9-year-old daughter, had the choice of living with her father in Modesto or her mother in Arizona but she had been experiencing mental health challenges in recent years and said remaining outside made her feel "free."

"She was a good girl, she wrote songs and poems," mother Josefina Chavez says. "The police did a bad job. It wasn't a dog that died, it was a human being." Advocates say the death shows the urgent need to set up safe camping spaces for the homeless, a move that does not have majority support on the city's seven-member council. "Christy could have still been alive today, had she had a safe place to rest," Modesto Community Action Group member Lynelle Solomon tells the Modesto Bee. "Christy's death is a prime example why we need safe camping and parking now, not tomorrow, in a week, month, or year."

(More California stories.)

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