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Death’s Link to Freeway Shootings Investigated

Police are investigating the possible links between the death of a 31-year-old woman shot at a freeway exit Monday night and two previous freeway shootings, noting that all three women were driving white vehicles.

Shortly after 8:30 p.m. Monday, Santa Ana officers responding to an accident call at the bottom of the southbound Dyer Road exit of the Costa Mesa Freeway found Luao Lani Autagavaia of Anaheim with bullet wounds to her torso, police said.

Autagavaia, who was found in the driver’s seat of her white Dodge Stealth, was transported to Western Medical Center-Santa Ana, where she was pronounced dead, police said.

Police Sgt. Steve Despenas said that Autagavaia, who was alone in the vehicle, was stopped at the signal light of the eastbound lane when she was shot from the driver’s side of her vehicle about 8 p.m.

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Police do not have a suspect or any leads.

In February, Melody Spicer, 47, survived gunshot wounds to her back, suffered while driving south on a transition road between the San Gabriel River and Artesia freeways in Cerritos.

Helena Dobiesz, 55, of Long Beach was killed 40 minutes later, on the 7th Street offramp of the San Diego Freeway in Seal Beach.

A ballistics test later revealed that the bullets in both incidents came from the same handgun.

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Despenas said a connection between the latest death and the earlier shootings is premature, pending autopsy results. “Everything is a possibility,” he said. “Right now it is only a coincidence that she was driving a white car.”

California Highway Patrol Officer Angel Johnson said three people made 911 calls after walking up to the car to help the woman they believed was a stranded motorist. Police are looking for others who may have driven past Autagavaia believing she was having car trouble.

“Right now we have no idea how long she was there,” Despenas said. “How many times have [people] passed someone stalled in a lane?”

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at (714) 245-8356.

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