Pregnant mother was headed to dance competition with stepdaughter when killed by hit-and-run driver

FRESNO, California -- A pregnant woman was killed and an 11-year-old girl critically injured in a head-on crash near Selma in Fresno County on Friday.

Just a few weeks ago, the happy family posted pictures announcing a new arrival.

Jasmine, 11, proudly held the sign declaring her only child status would be expiring in September. But Friday, the planning and preparing for a bundle of joy was shattered by a stranger, along with the family's dreams.

"They were getting ready to buy a house. They had all these plans, all of their whole future ahead of these two people. And it's tragic the way she lost her life, it's unfair," said Paula Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was 23-year-old Natalie Aceves' soon to be mother-in-law and Jasmine's grandmother.

Monday, she and Natalie's grieving family gathered at Community Regional Medical Center to see Jasmine. She underwent surgery for major internal injuries.

Natalie graduated from San Joaquin Valley College last year and had previously been working at Kaweah Delta Medical Center.

She dated Paula's son for nearly six years, so she was considered family and loved dearly.

"She just finished her surgical tech, and she had so many dreams. She was four months pregnant; she was happy about her baby," Paula said. "She made my son happy; she took care of my granddaughter, she took care of my son."

Last year, Jasmine lost her mother to a medical condition. But Natalie stepped in and Jasmine thanked her in a letter she wrote that was on display at an open house.

She wrote, "Thank you, Natalie, for doing my hair every single day and for dropping me off to dance and for picking me up, and for driving to Visalia and back, Thank you."

California Highway Patrol officers say Natalie died from a reckless move from a suspect who investigators are working to track down.

Detectives say that driver made an illegal U-turn on a solid yellow line. It caused the driver of a white pickup truck to swerve into oncoming traffic striking Natalie's Ford Focus. The driver of the truck was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

So far, three independent witnesses who live nearby have given officers the same account of the crash cause. They also recalled the suspect's white Chevy Malibu return to the scene, but it never stopped.

"They noticed the same vehicle go up Fowler, turn around and come back and pass the scene multiple times," said California Highway Patrol Officer Victor Taylor. "So whoever was driving at this time has some knowledge they may have caused this collision."

Natalie's family has one final question that coroner's officials will answer -- whether the baby she was carrying was a boy or girl. They say Natalie was so excited to find out and already had names selected.

Officers are scouring the area where the collision happened looking for surveillance video. They want to get a suspect description and license plate number.
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