NAACP Wants Closure in Death of Pregnant Teen

INDIO, Calif. -- The Coachella Valley Chapter of the NAACP will push Cathedral City police on Thursday to wrap up their investigation into the death of an 18-year-old pregnant girl who was struck by an alleged hit-and-run driver last month.

Danica Denton was killed about 9:30 p.m. Feb. 11 when she was struck while crossing East Palm Canyon Drive at Van Fleet Avenue in Cathedral City.

"We're looking to give the family some kind of closure," said Kenneth Booth Jr., president-elect of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Gina Garcia, 34, of Palm Springs, was arrested Feb. 12 on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and booked into the Palm Springs Jail. She was freed the same day on $25,000 bail. She is tentatively scheduled to appear in court March 12 for arraignment, according to court records.

Cathedral City police are still investigating the death and have not yet forwarded the case to the California Attorney General's Office, which will be handling the case, officials said.

The Riverside County District Attorney's Office has asked police to forward the case to the Attorney General's Office "because we believe there is a potential conflict of interest," said district attorney spokesman Michael Jeandron.

"Employees of our office are related to both the defendant and the victim," Jeandron said.

Booth contends that the District Attorney's Office gave preferential treatment to Garcia, alleging that Garcia's husband, who is an investigator for the District Attorney's Office, called the jail and instructed "certain officers" to arrange his wife's bail.

Booth said the minimum bail amount for a felony hit-and-run should have been at least $125,000.

"We're not making it a racial thing," Booth said. "It's about power and justice."

But Jeandron said the District Attorney's Office was not involved and "is not handling the case."

"Our office is not handling this case because there may be a potential conflict of interest," Jeandron said. "We've asked the Attorney General's Office to take the case to preserve the integrity of the case."

Booth said the investigation by the Cathedral City Police Department has dragged on too long and needs to be turned over for prosecution.

Cathedral City police did not return requests for comment today, but police Sgt. Earl Moss has said previously he could not give any details about the investigation or when it would be concluded.

Lt. Glen Haas said earlier that the investigation was lengthened by surveillance tapes that were helping police reconstruct the scene.

"These types of investigations are extremely technical, and involve a great deal of complex mathematical formulas to determine what actually happened," Haas said.

The NAACP will hold a news conference Thursday in front of the Larson Justice Center to push for resolution of the case. A protest is scheduled Saturday in front of the Mary Pickford Theater in Cathedral City near the area where Denton was struck.

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