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Woman held in crash that killed one USC student, injured another

A 30-year-old woman with a suspended driver’s license was booked on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter Friday in a hit-and-run accident that claimed the life of a USC student and left another severely injured.

Claudia Cabrera of South Los Angeles was arrested Thursday evening after a massive search by scores of detectives, apparently aided by a $235,000 reward in the case.

Driving near the university with her husband and 7-month-old baby, Cabrera allegedly ran a red light about 3 a.m. Sunday and struck the two freshmen, Adrianna Bachan, 18, and Marcus Garfinkle, 19, as they crossed Jefferson Boulevard near Hoover Street. Bachan died and Garfinkle suffered serious injuries, including two broken legs. He remains hospitalized in stable condition.

“Two incredibly bright futures, one of them ended, one of them severely impacted,” Assistant Police Chief James McDonnell said at a news conference. He added that witnesses’ accounts of what happened after the collision “shocked everyone.” According to those accounts, Garfinkle was thrown onto the windshield of the car and carried for 300 to 400 feet before the car stopped and a passenger emerged. “He dislodged Marcus from the windshield and went back into the car to escape,” McDonnell said. “He then held the windshield in place as they drove off.”

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Garfinkle’s mother, Barbara Vreeland, said her son, who had come to USC to study business and film, was “devastated to think that someone would pull him off the windshield after killing someone he was with.”

Vreeland said she and her husband have been sleeping by their son’s bedside.

Besides the broken legs and other injuries, she said, Garfinkle was suffering from pneumonia, but none of his problems were considered life-threatening.

“We’re fortunate,” she said.

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McDonnell said numerous tips received led officers to Cabrera’s house, where she was arrested.

Among those was a tip from someone who was close to the couple and was aware of the reward, according to law enforcement sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Investigators were still searching for the car, a green, 2000 Infiniti four-door sedan with California plates, and for Cabrera’s husband, Josue Luna, 31, who was believed to be the passenger who dislodged Garfinkle.

Luna, described as a stocky man with a shaved head, has a 1995 conviction for carrying a concealed firearm, according to court records.

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Cabrera’s driver’s license was suspended for failing to pay traffic tickets. She is being held on $1-million bail.

Bachan’s mother, Carmen, has been a visible face of grief since her daughter’s death. Standing in front of reporters Friday morning, as she has done on prior days, she trembled as she held a photo of her smiling daughter.

“We finally got one of them,” Bachan said, referring to Cabrera’s arrest. “Nothing can bring Adrianna back, but I do want justice.”

Her words became angrier later in the day. “I hope she rots in hell,” she said.

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Bachan said her husband, James, was having an especially difficult time dealing with their daughter’s death.

Father and daughter were close, she said -- so much so that Adrianna would sometimes wear her father’s shirts on campus. She said the two spoke by phone at least three to four times a day.

“If he didn’t hear from her at night, he’d go frantic,” she said. “That night he told her to be careful, and she was. She was crossing on a green light until that animal took her life and injured that beautiful young man.”

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com


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