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Dying woman names her killers! Modesto police arrest Daniel Gross and Melissa Leonardo for murder after teen victim, Lizette Cuesta, used her last words to identify suspects

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Daniel Gross, 19, and Melissa Leonardo, 25, of Modesto, California on suspicion of murder in the brutal slaying of 19-year-old Lizette Cuesta
Police say Lizette Cuesta, who police say used her last words to identify the suspected killers 
They Are Suspected of Stabbing the Teen Multiple Times & Leaving Her to Die Alone
Authorities Said the Suspects Were Known Friends With the Victim
Cuesta was stabbed in the throat, but she still dragged herself 100 feet against odds
Gross and 25-year-old Leonardo, a mother-of-three are engaged and work at the same fast food restaurant
 Gross and Leonardo are due in court Wednesday morning
Daniel Gross and Melissa Leonardo 1.jpgDaniel Gross [left], and Melissa Leonardo [right], were arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the death of Lizette Cuesta, who police say used her last words to identify the suspected killers.

Police in Modesto California arrested Daniel Gross, 19, and Melissa Leonardo, 25, on suspicion of murder in the brutal slaying of  teenager Lizette Cuesta.
The suspects were accused of fatally stabbing 19-year-old Cuesta multiple times and leaving her for dead just outside of Livermore in the early morning hours, authorities said.
Authorities said Cuesta fought for her life early Monday morning and used her last words to help identify the alleged killers. Police sources said indicate she’d been stabbed in the throat, and the first arriving California Highway Patrol officers noted she had slice marks on her neck.

Lizzy Cuesta 7.pngThe victim from the Tesla Road Homicide has been identified as: Lizette Andrea Cuesta, Age 19, from Tracy, CA. Lizette Cuesta was friends with the couple who wound up killing her

While a motive is not yet known, police described the suspects and victim as friends.
“On Monday, February 12, 2018, about 2:00 am, CHP-Dublin Officers responded to a 911 report of an injured woman on the ground near mile marker 8.49 on Tesla Road in rural Livermore,” a press release stated.
Dispatchers were told in the 911 call that a woman missing an arm and lying in the middle of Tesla Road, about 2 miles west of Carnegie Park, said Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
The victim, later identified as 19-year-old Lizette Cuesta from Tracy, was not missing an arm, but she was pronounced dead shortly after being airlifted to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.
Daniel Gross, 19, and 25-year-old Melissa Leonardo were arrested in Modesto after the victim gave officers a “compelling account” of who was responsible for her death, Sgt. Kelly said.
Gross and Leonardo, who were engaged, worked at a fast-food chain together. A former colleague of Leonardo’s described her as “moody at times,” but otherwise “She had emotional issues & was extremely jealous. He [Gross] had anger issues & talked about killing people who talked too much,”  another colleague said of Leonardo and Gross.

Lizette Cuesta 1.jpgStabbing victim: Cuesta Used Her Last Dying Words to Help Identify Gross & Leonardo

According to KRON 4, authorities said it appeared that Cuesta was brutally stabbed before being dumped from a vehicle and left for dead. Investigators believe Cuesta was killed with malice aforethought. She reportedly crawled about 100 yards on her stomach before being discovered by the commuters. Authorities were able to determine the approximate distance after following a trail of blood.
Cuesta was found by some UPS employees on their way to their early morning shift.
Richard Loadholt and three colleagues were carpooling to work when they came across Cuesta, Fox 40 reported.  Loadholt told Fox that Cuesta was in such a horrifying state that he wasn’t able to recognize the color of her hair: “She laid down for almost three minutes at one period, and we told her to get up,” Loadholt said.
“She knew she had to get up and I commend that.”
Cuesta’s uncle expressed gratitude towards those who stopped to help his niece.
“We want to thank the Good Samaritans that helped her,” Roberto Cuesta told CBS San Francisco. “Not a lot of people would do that. We just want to reach out and, hopefully, one day we can talk.”

Lizette Cuesta being transported to hospital 2.jpgCuesta was transported to the hospital with critical injuries after being stabbed multiple times early Monday in Livermore. She later succumbed to her injuries.
According to the press release, officers from the California Highway Patrol along with Alameda County Fire Paramedics responded to the scene of the crime, where they found Cuesta suffering from “life threatening stab wounds and other injuries.”
Preliminary investigations reveal that Cuesta was stabbed, dumped out of a car and left for dead, Sgt. Kelly said. In addition to stab wounds, the woman had other injuries that were not specified.
“A decision was made to life flight the victim to Eden Hospital Trauma in Castro Valley where she was pronounced dead about 4:30 am,” the release stated. “Prior to her death, she was able to provide us with pertinent information about her attackers.”
“Her internal fortitude, to stay alive and to fight, is pretty remarkable,” Kelly said. “This young woman clung to life when she was left for dead and was able to live for another couple of hours and get us that information. Ultimately that led us to these arrests.”Lizette Cuesta 4.jpeg“This victim really tried to survive, and she fought and she fought,” Sgt. Ray Kelly with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office told The San Francisco Chronicle. “The last thing, we believe, that she was able to do was to point us in the direction of the people who killed her. And that’s pretty remarkable.”
“I’ve been around a long time, and I can only think of two to three times that I’m aware of in our agency that we’ve been able to get a dying declaration like that,” Kelly continued. “A dying declaration is a very compelling piece of evidence that’s recognized in the court to be very credible and reliable information.”
Cuesta’s heartbroken father told CBS San Francisco that he was proud of his daughter’s final moments on earth.
“I’m proud of her. She didn’t give up. She won. She showed them,” Ray Cuesta told the station. “I know she passed away, but when they did this to her, they figured they got away with it. She didn’t let them get away with it. She brought peace to herself and peace to me and my family. I love her.”

Daniel Gross 4
19-year-old Daniel Gross is said to have anger management issues and speaks about killing people
Daniel Gross 7Daniel Gross in paramilitary gear posted on his Facebook page

While a motive has not been identified in the alleged murder, authorities said Gross and Leonardo had been friends with the victim.
Kelly told reporters at a February 13 news conference that detectives “have a lot to fill in as far as motive,” adding that Cuesta willingly entered the suspect’s vehicle, according to The Modesto Bee.
Authorities are investigating what occurred after the victim got into the car. “We have a very dynamic crime scene on Tesla Road…I’m going to leave it at that,” Kelly told The Bee when asked about where the stabbing may have taken place.

Daniel Gross and Melissa Leonardo 2.jpgSuspects Gross and Leonardo reportedly are engaged and The Suspects Worked Together. 
Daniel Gross 8.pngGross ‘Talked About Killing People,’ While Leonardo Was Described as ‘Moody’

The victim grew up in San Jose but resided in Tracy at the time of her death, while Gross and Leonardo worked together at Carl’s Jr. in Tracy, California, according to sources.
Described as a ‘rebel’ soul with anger management issue, Gross on his  Facebook page page posts images of paramilitaries, the confederate flag and runic symbols.
A colleague described the suspects as two “hollow souls” who were “constantly all over each other” while working.
Leonardo, a mother-of-three allegedly, often displayed “an attitude.”
Friends of both suspects say “ [Leonardo] had emotional issues and was extremely jealous. He had anger issues & talked about killing people who talked too much,” friends of the couple told Fox 40.


Daniel Gross and Melissa Leonardo 1Gross ‘Talked About Killing People,’ While Leonardo Was Described as ‘Moody’

“Daniel has always talked about if someone pisses him off bad enough he will kill them,” Montana Howland told the station. “But Melissa is the only one with a car and she goes everywhere Daniel goes, so that’s probably the reason she got (dragged) into it.”

Lizette Cuesta 5.jpgA GoFundMe page set up for the family of Lizette Cuesta.

A GoFundMe account has been set up by Zelda Lopez to help Cuesta’s family during this tragic time.
“We are raising money to help the family of Lizette in this very tragic and difficult time,” the website reads. “Any and all donations will be greatly appreciated.”
At the time of publishing the page had raised nearly $7,500 of a $30,000 goal.

memorial for Lizette Cuesta 3.jpegMemorial for Lizette Cuesta
Anyone with information regarding the case is urged to call the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office at 510 667-7721. Callers may remain anonymous.



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  1. Murder suspect Daniel Gross, admits he ‘snapped’ after sex with victim, Lizette Cuesta – ‘I killed her in self-defense after she elbowed me in the ribs’ – KonnieMoments

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