Natalie Vega, 3
Natalie Vega, a 3-year-old Latina, died Thursday, June 16, after she was put in a burning car in the 300 block of West 124th Street in the Willowbrook neighborhood of Los Angeles, according to Los Angeles County coroner’s records.
Vega was at Athens Park with her mother, Vanessa Ibarra, a 25-year-old Latina from Los Angeles, about 9:43 p.m., said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. John Corina.
Ibarra had been living with family in the area off and on but recently had been living out of her SUV with her daughter, Corina said.
That evening in the park, Ibarra set her SUV on fire, Corina said. According to witnesses, Ibarra kept getting in and out of the car, as people shouted at her to get away.
“At one point, she throws the child in the car and gets in herself,” Corina said. “The car was engulfed in fire, so it probably happened really quick. We think the child lost consciousness right away, due to lack of oxygen, smoke and heat, and the same thing happened to the mother.”
Vega and Ibarra were pronounced dead at the scene at 9:48 p.m., from smoke inhalation and thermal burns, according to coroner’s records. The mother’s death was ruled a suicide, Vega’s a homicide.
Investigators don’t know what prompted Ibarra to kill herself and her child, Corina said.
The mother “was having some kind of issues and a little bit of a drug problem, but we’re not really sure why she felt she had to take her child with her,” Corina said. “Anytime someone takes their own life, you know there’s some suffering, but to take your child’s life ... it’s horrible.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.