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Body of Missing Irvine Mother Found by Road

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The body of an Irvine mother of two, whose husband said she disappeared from their home last month in the middle of the night, was found tossed down a road embankment in a remote section of East San Diego County just hours after she was reported missing, authorities said Friday.

Medical officials concluded that Carolyn Rodrick, 35, had been strangled.

Her fully clothed body was discovered three weeks ago by a passing motorist in an area used for illegal dumping near Temecula. Law enforcement officials said it appeared she had been killed away from the site her body was found, and there were no other signs of physical injury.

The discovery of Rodrick’s body some 50 miles from her home resolves one aspect of the mystery surrounding her July 21 disappearance but raises new questions about who killed her and why.

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“Obviously, her husband has been questioned,” said Irvine Police Lt. Sam Allevato. “We’re talking to friends, neighbors, acquaintances, co-workers. We’re looking for any leads. We have nothing singled out.”

Her husband, Daniel Rodrick, a 37-year-old self-employed sales distributor for lighting devices, would not comment on the latest developments in the case.

“I can’t talk right now,” he said Friday. “I’ve got children in the house.”

Janet Vanzyl, the victim’s sister, said the family, including the couple’s 14-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, would be attending counseling sessions Friday.

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“This is a very difficult time for us,” she said.

On the afternoon of July 21, Daniel Rodrick reported his wife of 15 years missing. He told police that they had gone to bed at 11:30 the night before and when he awoke at 2:30 a.m., she wasn’t beside him. He thought little of it, figuring she went for a glass of water. He woke again at about 5 a.m., and thought she was out jogging or at the gym.

At 7 a.m. she was still gone when Daniel Rodrick searched her purse for money. Her wallet contained no cash, but her credit cards were inside. He noted that it was unusual for his wife not to have $40 to $100 in her wallet.

Daniel Rodrick also noticed that her jogging clothes and gym bag were still inside the house. Police said Daniel Rodrick was able to identify what his wife might have been wearing by figuring out what was missing from her wardrobe.

When she was found, the 5-foot-4, 120-pound woman with long blonde hair was dressed in a black turtleneck, long-sleeve T-shirt, blue denim pants and white tennis shoes--the clothing that Daniel Rodrick said was missing. She had silver rings on her left ring finger and left pinkie.

When Carolyn Rodrick didn’t turn up for work at the Great Western Bank in Fashion Island, bank officials called police. Rodrick also said he contacted an equestrian center where his wife kept her horse. He reported his wife missing later that afternoon.

Allevato said the couple had had marital problems.

Carolyn Rodrick “made indications, even to total strangers, that she wasn’t happy in life and was going to leave. So if someone indicates they’re not happy with you and took off for a few days, you might not report it right away,” he said.

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Neighbors in the Irvine enclave of Westpark said the family had moved there just last month from Woodbridge and were having financial difficulties, which police confirmed.

They were planning to move again at the end of the month from the two-story Spanish-style home.

“They were a young couple, and it takes a lot of money to live in Irvine,” Allevato said. “They were living beyond their means.”

Hours after Daniel Rodrick reported his wife missing, a motorist in East San Diego County made a stop along Pala Temecula Road, some three miles north of California 76. At about 7 p.m., the motorist happened to look down a steep embankment and saw a body in a ditch.

The motorist drove to nearby Temecula and contacted Riverside County authorities, who in turn notified the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Irvine police learned this week that a missing body was found in San Diego County, and when given the description of the jewelry found on the dead woman, sent investigators south on Wednesday. By Thursday, they had matched fingerprints and identified the body. Daniel Rodrick was informed Thursday night.

Friends and co-workers mourning Carolyn Rodrick’s death Friday described her as outspoken and upbeat, a woman devoted to her family and an excellent rider who liked taking her horse on long treks into the countryside.

“She was an excellent lady, a very gentle person,” said Roland Von Coburg, manager of the stables where Rodrick and her family kept their Arabian gelding, Prancer.

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Carolyn Rodrick had been riding since her childhood in South Africa, where her father was a horseman who ran a tack store, Von Coburg said. Daniel Rodrick is also a native of South Africa, Allevato said.

She kept her horse at the stable for about three years and especially liked endurance riding. More recently, she had started taking polo lessons.

Von Coburg said Rodrick seemed happy when he last saw her at a polo tournament on the Sunday before her disappearance.

“We feel terrible,” he said. “We are missing her.”

Co-workers at Great Western Bank in Fashion Island, where Rodrick worked as a customer service representative for the last year, were shocked by her death.

“Everyone is very devastated,” said Marie Rennels, who supervised Rodrick and remembered her as a “family-oriented” woman who was not afraid to speak her mind.

Carolyn Rodrick would mention family problems, Rennels said, “but she really didn’t bring it to work.”

San Diego County Sheriff’s Homicide Lt. Doug Clements said his office would be working closely with the Irvine Police Department on the case.

“It could very well be that she was killed up there and dumped down here,” Clements said. “Right now, we have the body and we’ll process the scene down here.”


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