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Vigil honors 64-year-old Costa Mesa woman killed by a hit-and-run driver still at large

Attendees of a vigil outside a Stater Bros. store on Costa Mesa's Baker Street Wednesday hear words from Patricia Batchelor.
Attendees of a vigil outside a Stater Bros. store on Costa Mesa’s Baker Street Wednesday hear words from Patricia Batchelor, niece of Linda Jean Lefler, 64, who died on June 15 in a hit-and-run collision near the store where she’d worked for 19 years.
(Courtesy of Costa Mesa Police Department)

Friends, family and co-workers of Linda Jean Lefler — a 64-year-old Costa Mesa woman killed last week by a hit-and-run driver while walking home from work — held a vigil Wednesday night to honor a life lost and to plead for justice.

A small group assembled in the parking lot of the Stater Bros. market on Costa Mesa’s Baker Street, where Lefler worked for 19 years and had just left the night of June 15, when she was fatally struck by a vehicle as she attempted to cross Fairview Road, south of Baker.

A memorial on Costa Mesa's Fairview Road marks where Linda Lefler, 64, was killed on June 15 by a hit-and-run driver.
A small memorial marks the location where Linda Jean Lefler, 64, was killed June 15 in a fatal hit-and-run collision on Costa Mesa’s Fairview Road.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The driver fled the scene without stopping, according to Costa Mesa police, who are seeking the public’s help in locating the suspect or the vehicle, a light-colored Toyota compact SUV with likely windshield and front-end damage.

Lefler’s niece, Patricia Batchelor, immediately left her home in Texas for Costa Mesa upon hearing news of the collision. Lefler leaves behind a 36-year-old son with special needs, who lived with her and would receive a call each evening as his mother left work for home.

“She was fun loving, like a big kid,” Batchelor said of her aunt, recalling childhood trips to carnivals, the beach and Disneyland. “When she had her son, that was her whole world. She worked so hard and for so long to make sure he was taken care of.”

Linda Lefler, a Costa Mesa resident, in an undated souvenir photo with adult son Chris.
(Courtesy of Patricia Batchelor)

Batchelor said Lefler had planned on retiring from Stater Bros. after having spent 20 years with the company and moving out to Texas with son Chris to be closer to family. She was just six months away from that goal when the collision occurred.

Wednesday’s vigil began at 8:30 p.m. and was scheduled to conclude at 9:03 p.m., the time Lefler was discovered deceased at the scene. Attendees, many of them employees of Stater Bros., then released balloons bearing messages of remembrance and watched them disappear into the night sky.

Linda Jean Lefler, seen in an undated photo, died June 15 in a hit-and-run collision on Fairview Road in Costa Mesa.
Linda Jean Lefler, seen in an undated photo, died June 15 in a hit-and-run collision on Fairview Road in Costa Mesa.
(Courtesy of Patricia Batchelor)

Family members are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the driver, who has remained at large for more than a week. Batchelor said she and others simply want justice for a woman beloved by those who knew her.

“Why didn’t you stop?” she asks of the driver. “You left her lying in the road like a dog — she didn’t stand a chance. Why would you let her die by herself?”

Anyone with information on the June 15 incident is asked to contact Costa Mesa Police Department investigator Luis Gomez at (714) 754-5264.

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