At least one of two Lodi High School girls who were struck and killed Christmas Eve had consumed alcohol, according to toxicology tests.
The test on Jaclyn Terry, 17, revealed a blood-alcohol content level of 0.15, said Sgt. Bill Fellers with the San Joaquin County Coroner's Office. In California, those under the age of 21 are not allowed to consume alcohol, and the legal driving limit is 0.08.
Terry's father disputed the relatively high level, pointing to research showing that alcohol levels rise after death. Richard Terry said the test wasn't done until 24 hours after his daughter had died, and that he has also engaged the help of an attorney and private investigator to dispute the finding.
Terry and Kelly Garecht (also 17) were at Terry's house on Highway 88 for a Christmas party when the two went outside. For a reason family members do not know, the best friends took a short walk and, at 9:15 p.m., were struck by a passing car.
Terry died at the scene. Garecht was taken to a Sacramento hospital, where she died hours later.
The Sacramento County Coroner's Office is handling the review of Garecht's death, and toxicology tests for her were not available Monday because the death report had not been completed, a clerk said.
The California Highway Patrol initially stated after the accident that alcohol may have played a factor, but when family members insisted the girls were not drinking, CHP officials stated only that the case was under investigation.
Such investigations typically take time, and CHP Officer William Gill said Monday that the lead investigator's report is not complete yet. Whether any charges will be recommended - including whether anyone could be charged with providing alcohol to a minor - remains to be seen.
The driver, Valley Springs resident Joy Salazar, 46, was not cited at the scene. Four weeks later, she is still distraught, her lawyer said.
"The whole family is torn up over it; they were all in the car," attorney Brian Chavez-Ochoa said. "I can't imagine, quite frankly, a more horrific occurrence but on Christmas Eve it's multiplied."
The toxicology test result was news to Chavez-Ochoa, who has represented defendants charged in drunken driving cases but said blood tests are usually hard to dispute.
Alcohol levels in the body can rise after death, but Chavez-Ochoa said it still points to the fact that some alcohol was apparently involved.
"Whether it's a 0.15 or a 0.01, unfortunately both of these girls were 17 and the fact of the matter is that you cannot drink under the age of 21," he said.
Regardless of who was at fault, Chavez-Ochoa said it's a tragedy - and one he understands because his 23-year-old daughter died a year ago.
"I know what it's like to lose a child. The emptiness you feel inside is just unbearable," he said.