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Leads sought after woman looking for cat dies in hit-and-run

Leads sought after woman looking for cat dies in hit-and-run
This photograph shows a truck that detectives think hit and killed a woman on Union Pacific Avenue in Boyle Heights on Dec. 21. (LAPD)

Detectives are looking for leads in last week's hit-and-run accident that killed a woman who was looking in the street for her cat in Boyle Heights. Investigators have released a security-camera still that caught a picture of the 18-wheeler that detectives believe was involved.

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The woman, Cynthia Szukala, 69, had told her daughter that she was going outside to look for her cat, said Det. Felix Padilla of the Central Traffic Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Szukala was living with her adult daughter in a motor home parked on the street.

“I think she had been forced out of her house,” Padilla said. “Her house had caught fire. She’s been living out of that motor home for quite some time.”

Szukala was standing in the 3700 block of Union Pacific Avenue, when the tractor trailer came by at about 9:50 p.m. Thursday, according to an LAPD release. The truck might have stopped or slowed or perhaps backed up at some point. One possible scenario is that Szukala bent over to look under the truck for the cat when she was struck. She was apparently run over by a single front tire of the truck, Padilla said.

The driver pulled away, leaving the scene heading eastbound on Union Pacific Avenue without identifying himself or rendering aid to the victim.

Padilla said the incident was likely an accident and the driver would not necessarily have faced any repercussions. But the law requires motorists involved in an accident to remain at the scene and to render or summon aid if needed.

A passerby found Szukala in the street. She’d suffered severe blunt force injuries and was pronounced dead by paramedics who arrived from the Los Angeles Fire Department.

A reward of up to $50,000 is available to those who provide information that helps track down hit-and-run drivers involved in fatal crashes.

Anyone with information can contact detectives at (213) 833-3713 during business hours and at other times by calling 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Tipsters also can visit www.lapdonline.org, and click on “Anonymous Web Tips” under the “Get Involved-Crime Stoppers” menu.

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