Victim, suspects identified in murder of woman found on Livermore Road

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Murder suspects Daniel Gross, 19 and Melissa Leonardo, 25, were arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the stabbing death of a 19-year-old Tracy woman. 

Authorities Tuesday released the names of the man and woman facing murder charges in connection to the brutal assault and fatal stabbing of a 19-year-old Tracy woman found crawling along a desolate East Bay Road early Monday. 

She had been dumped from a car and left to die.

The suspects arrested for the murder of Lizette Andrea Cuesta were identified by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office as Daniel Gross, 19, and Melissa Leonardo, 25, both of Modesto. The two, who remain in Santa Rita Jail on a no bail hold, were in a romantic relationship, said sheriff’s office spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly. 

It’s not yet clear if investigators have a motive in the crime. Kelly said the three were friends and together Sunday night.

“All three know each other,’’ he said. “Lizette got into the car that night and now we are trying to put together what exactly happened.” 

Kelly, in offering the department’s “deepest condolences to (the victim’s) family and friends said detectives have been working around the clock in Livermore, Tracy and Modesto to pin down what exactly led to Cuesta’s murder. 

Gross and Leonardo were arrested Monday afternoon at a home in Modesto, about 12 hours after Cuesta was found on the side of rural Tesla Road by passing motorists on their way to work.

She had crawled about 100 yards, leaving a trail of blood as she went, as she fought to survive, Kelly said. 

Richard Loadholt was carpooling with co-workers from Modesto and was on his way to work at UPS early Monday morning when he spotted the bloodied woman. 

Loadholt told KCRA that he got out of the car and prayed with the young woman, keeping her awake. Loadholt’s female co-worker gave the shivering and dying woman a blanket as they waited for emergency responders to arrive. 

"I just felt compelled by the spirit of love to do that,” Loadholt said.

And though she could barely stand and was so covered in blood that Loadholt said he couldn’t make out the color of her hair, she somehow gave the motorists the names of the suspectd. She reportedly repeated those names again and again to the motorists, the paramedics and the California Highway Patrol on the scene. 

“She gave statements to first responders and the good Samaritans,’’ Kelly said. 

Cuesta was flown by helicopter to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where she died about two hours after her rescue. 

But her last words helped lead investigators to the suspect’s Modesto home Monday afternoon. 

As investigators broke the news to the victim's family in Tracy, the good Samaritan who was at her side said he had a message for her loved ones.

"I hope it will be encouraging to her family to know that their daughter did have that spirit to fight," Loadholt said.