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Fourth Santa Monica Teenager Dead Since October  
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By Jorge Casuso

April 12, 2017 -- A 17-year-old-girl whose body was found on the banks of the Los Angeles River in Long Beach Thursday has been identified as a Santa Monica resident who attended a local school, marking the fourth teenager from the beach city to die in the past six months.

The victim was identified Tuesday as Leslie Hernandez, according to Long Beach Police, who are investigating the case.

"Based on the initial results of the investigation, which includes the preliminary findings of the LA County Coroner’s Office, this case is being investigated as a possible drug overdose," police said in a statement.

Hernandez was last enrolled in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) in 2015, according to District spokeswoman Gail Pinsker.

Pinsker did not know what school the victim attended. She also did not know if Hernandez had dropped out of school, information she said the district would, in any case, keep confidential.

Hernandez is the fourth current or former SMMUSD student to have died since October 25.

Officer responding to a 1:30 a.m. call last Thursday reporting that a body had been found near the Ocean Boulevard Bridge found "a deceased female victim, unknown age, along the waterline of the riverbed," according to a release posted by the department's media relations detail.

The caller said a vehicle had been seen leaving the area, and officers pulled over a vehicle matching the description provided, police said.

The vehicle's occupants were questioned, but no arrests have been made in the case.

Hernandez's death comes less than one month after Andre Zuczek, a 15-year-old Santa Monica High School student fell three floors to his death while on LSD ("Santa Monica Mourns Death of Third Samohi Student in Six Months," March 22, 2017).

Zuczek's death on March 18 came as the city was still coming to terms with the deaths of Vanai Jelks, who was also a 15-year-old Samohi student, on October 25 and of Kelly Cano, an 18-year-old Samohi senior, on February 11 ("Santa Monica High School Student Dies of Unknown Illness Not Related to Recent Virus Outbreak," February 13, 2017).

On February 26, Juan Castillo, who graduated from Samohi last year, was found shot in the head and unconscious just steps from Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center’s emergency room. He was pronounced dead at the scene ("Police Investigate Shooting Death of Santa Monica Teenager," February 27, 2017).

Anyone with information regarding the Hernandez's death should contact Long Beach Homicide Detectives Donald Goodman and Mark Mattia at (562) 570-7244.

Anonymous tips can be submitted through “LA Crime Stoppers” by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), downloading the “P3 Tips” app to a smart phone or visiting www.lacrimestoppers.org.


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