FLOWOOD, Miss. (WLBT) - Nearly two months after Irina Gutierrez was killed while walking alongside Old Fannin Road, her death has been ruled a “tragic accident.”
The 17-year-old, who had only been in the U.S. for three months, was struck and killed on the high-traffic road the night of February 26.
Her death was first investigated as a fatal hit-and-run.
“It was sent out as a hit and run because we were operating under that assumption,” said Paul Holley, legal counsel for the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department. “Often times you will see that when somebody is down in the road.”
But after speaking to drivers and looking through surveillance video, a key piece of information turned up, shifting the investigation.
Holley said investigators discovered that the driver of the vehicle that hit Gutierrez that night never left the scene of the accident.
The legal counsel said that driver would then fully cooperate with deputies throughout the investigation.
“The one vehicle that we know did make contact with Ms. Gutierrez, that vehicle did not leave,” said Holley. “At the time, we were working under the assumption that that was the second vehicle, and in fact after our investigation, we’ve concluded that that was the only vehicle.”
Holley said the 17-year-old was lying in the road when she was struck.
However, at this time, Holley said the department is unsure how she got that way.
“It appears as though she fell to the ground, but we’re not able to determine how exactly that happened,” said Holley. “It did not appear as though any other vehicle struck the victim, and we didn’t see any damage on any of the other vehicles, so we’re not able to say exactly how she got to that position when she was struck.”
The sheriff’s department worked with attorneys and investigators from the Rankin County District Attorney’s Office during its investigation, and ultimately came to this conclusion.
“It’s a tragic accident, but we don’t think there’s any criminal conduct that took place,” said Holley.
Holley said the investigation has now been turned over to the district attorney’s office.
Gutierrez was buried in Oklahoma in March.