Just before 5 a.m. Aug. 21, the driver of a small, dark-to-black sedan struck a woman as she walked in the 3600 block of C Street Southwest in Auburn.
Then, instead of stopping to help, the car and driver peeled away into the pre-dawn darkness, leaving in the glow of receding tail lights the broken, lifeless body of 61-year-old Ardella Songcuan of Redding, Calif.
The Auburn Police Department, despite its best efforts, to date has been unable to find the driver. Last week, the department renewed its call for information leading to the driver’s apprehension. In addition to the colors given above, the vehicle after the accident would have shown obvious damage to the front, left corner.
To Songcuan’s family, this represents perhaps its last best hope of finding the person responsible, said her daughter, Lisa Iniguez.
“I am angry that the person who hit her left her in the road like she was nothing, because she was everything,” Iniguez said through tears. “We lost everything when he lost her.”
Here is how Songcuan’s family describes the woman whom the anonymous driver left to die.
A warm-hearted human being who brought children from broken homes into the warm embrace of her own.
A woman known for her holiday spirit, whose family one year arranged popsicle sticks to create a Christmas display, which an unknown someone entered into a community contest where it took first place.
A woman who, with her husband, would dress up as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and deliver presents to every one of their grandchildren at bedtime so the kids could “accidentally” see them.
A woman who, every Easter, cooked for hours and celebrated the day with all of the family at nearby Fisherman’s Point — and was known for making all the money eggs, too.
And avid Pepsi drinker.
And to her trucker husband of more than 30 years — they met in late November 1988, fell in love, and married only three weeks later — the woman who kept him company all of those days and nights on the road.
The couple were in Auburn that fatal morning to drop off a load at the Safeway Distribution Center on C Street Southwest. While James was so engaged, Ardella, who had survived a cerebral blood clot a year-and-a -half earlier, and suffered from intermittent memory lapses, told him shortly before 5 a.m. that she wanted to go for a walk inside the fenced distribution center.
“When the red light is on in (the distribution center) you are not allowed to leave your truck. She wanted to go for a walk, and my dad figured that, because it was enclosed, she’d be fine,” Iniguez explained.
Then, sirens and flashing lights.
“My dad told me he didn’t think anything of it when the sirens were going off, but, when the light turned green, he left his load and asked the security people what was going on. They told him they’d escorted some lady out, that there’d been a hit-and-run, and the lady was dead,” Iniguez said.
“Please, tell me she wasn’t wearing a blue shirt with a pink unicorn on it,” he responded.
Security called in a police officer, who confirmed that was what the dead woman was wearing.
“When I went there to put flowers for my mom, to see where she was hit and stuff, a couple of workers came out and said they were there that morning and that security had escorted her off and made my mom leave. Even if my mom had memory loss for a second, I’m not sure why they would make her go out into the street, because there’s nothing out there. Why not just call the cops? Maybe security didn’t think she should be there.”
Today, the family faces its first holiday season without the woman who cooked Thanksgiving dinner for her family and their families and invited others without families to partake.
“She was amazing, she was the rock of this family,” Iniguez said through a fresh burst of tears. “We’re so lost.”
Meanwhile, Lisa Iniguez, Ardella’s grieving husband, James, her son, Daniel Jurgensen, and daughter Shenna Kelley have put up a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the driver. The family can be reached at (530 351-1642).