‘She Was Happy and Loved Life': Mother of Victim in Montecito Heights Park Killings Speaks Out

The bodies of Gabriela Calzada, 19, and Briana Gallegos, 17, were found by a hiker last year at Ernest E. Debs National Park.

The mother of one of the two teens who was found dead at a Montecito Heights park last year spoke out Monday, saying her only child, 19-year-old Gabriela Calzada, was "happy and loved life."

The bodies of Calzada and Briana Gallegos, 17, were found by a hiker Oct. 28 at Ernest E. Debs National Park. Two male suspects, ages 18 and 17, are expected to be arraigned Tuesday in connection with the victims' brutal murders.

Police said Jose Antonio Echeverria, 18, and Dallas Stone Pineda, 17, knew and specifically sought out the victims in a gang-related attack.

"Sometimes I don't want to live," the mother, who did not want to be identified, said in Spanish.

Police said the girls were bludgeoned to death, and Calzada was also shot with a rifle.

"It was a horrific scene that the men and women of this police department took very personally," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a news conference in February when the arrests were made.

The mayor said Calzada had been a local youth leader who was trying to turn her life around, possibly making her a target.

Calzada participated in a gang reduction and youth development group called Aztec Rising. They offered training for her dream job in wildland firefighting.

Calzada's mother said from a young age, her daughter loved animals and had earlier aspired to be a veterinarian.

The day before the bodies were found, her mother said Calzada gave her a kiss and said she was going out with friends. She said she doesn't know the suspects and hopes to find out why her daughter and Gallegos were killed.

"My only fear is to never see my daughter again," she said.

She said her daughter was going to school and was three months away from graduating when she was killed.

The suspects remain behind bars and were denied bail. They were charged with murder with special circumstances. Echeverria faces the death penalty and Pineda faces up to life in prison.

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