Bay City News Service
A public memorial will be held Saturday in the Casa Grande High School gym in Petaluma for Alyssa Byrne, 19, of Petaluma, who died after she left the SnowGlobe Music Festival in South Lake Tahoe on New Year's Eve.
The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office said it appears Byrne left the music festival at Lake Tahoe Community College late New Year's Eve night and started walking in single digit temperatures back to the Horizon Casino Resort two or three miles away in Stateline, Nev. instead of taking a shuttle bus.
Her body was found Jan. 4 within a mile of the college behind a snow bank alongside Pioneer Trail in South Lake Tahoe. El Dorado County Sheriff's Office Lt. Pete Van Arnum said Byrne turned right instead of left onto Pioneer Trail and walked west away from the casino. Her boot prints in the snow were parallel to the snow bank, Van Arnum said.
She was fully clothed, but her white jacket was found about 100 yards from her body, leading to the possibility she became disoriented and confused from hypothermia which initially makes one feel warm before the body's core temperature drops to a lethal level.
The results of an autopsy by the Sacramento County coroner's office found no signs of trauma or foul play on her body. The cause of her death is pending tissue and blood sample tests to determine if there was alcohol or drugs in her system, Van Arnum said.
Drinking alcohol and not dressing warmly enough for cold temperatures can increase the risk of hypothermia.
"Some of her friends that talked to her at the event said that she was under the influence of something, but the there is no proof of that. The toxicology tests will determine that," Van Arnum said.
"After the event was over at midnight, there were thousands of people leaving on foot. It's hard to find someone who saw her walking," Van Arnum said.
One of Byrne's friends told authorities that he saw Byrne in the casino after midnight on New Year's Day, but surveillance video does not contain any images of Byrne, Van Arnum said.
South Lake Tahoe police, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the FBI office, both in Nevada, also investigated Byrne's disappearance, Van Arnum said.
"It's a parent's worst nightmare," Van Arnum said. Byrne, an aspiring paramedic-firefighter, was studying at Santa Rosa Junior College.
She worked as a hostess at the Cattlemens restaurant in Petaluma. She was active in school sports, including lacrosse, baseball, softball and basketball. She graduated from Casa Grande High School in 2011. Her family has asked those who attend her memorial at 10 a.m.
Saturday to wear pink clothing, her favorite color, and in lieu of flowers to send donations to the KlaasKids Foundation and the Polly Klaas Foundation.
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