Missing teen found dead in South Lake Tahoe
January 4, 2013
The body of Petaluma resident Alyssa Byrne was found Friday morning in South Lake Tahoe.
In a Friday morning press conference, Douglas County Undersheriff Paul Howell said a utility worker in an elevated truck saw Byrne’s body behind a high snow bank 10 feet off Pioneer Trail between Al Tahoe and Black Bart Avenue about 8:30 a.m.
Police said her body was just off the roadway about 1/2 mile southwest of the Lake Tahoe Community College, where SnowGlobe was held. Her body looked like it had been there for a couple days, he said.
Officials believe that Byrne attended SnowGlobe late on Dec. 31, and possibly became disoriented when she left the event on foot, according to a release from El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the National Weather Service, the temperature dropped to 3 degrees Jan. 1 and fell to minus 1 Jan. 2.
While Howell did not want to speculate on the circumstances, he said the location could have been along a route someone who missed the SnowGlobe Music Festival shuttle may have taken.
Earlier reports stated that Byrne had made it back to Horizon Casino Resort on New Year’s Eve, but police were unable to spot her on security footage.
Howell said police still do not have evidence of foul play, and there were no outward signs of trauma to the body. El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office detectives and the CSI team processed the scene for evidence and Byrne’s body will be taken to the Sacramento Coroner’s Office for a forensic autopsy to determine the cause of death.
“If exposed to the elements you could succumb to that,” Howell told The Associated Press. “We won’t speculate on that (hypothermia) as the cause of death, but we’re hoping to get an answer from the autopsy.”
The autopsy also will determine whether alcohol or drugs were a factor, he said.
Byrne’s father, Kevin Byrne, issued a statement Friday thanking those who helped.
“Our entire family is devastated,” the statement said. “We were still holding out hope that she would be found safe. We will miss Alyssa and she will be in our hearts forever.”
Chanel Kelly, a friend who was on the New Year’s Eve trip in Tahoe, told reporters outside the Byrne home in Petaluma that the tragedy is everybody’s worst nightmare.
“At the end of the day she’s always responsible and safe, but this is one time that she wasn’t,” Kelly said.
Byrne worked as a hostess at Cattlemens restaurant in Petaluma, about 40 miles north of San Francisco, and was taking classes at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma campus to become a firefighter/paramedic.
The discovery of the body comes after a three-day search for Byrne, who was reported missing Jan. 1 after coming to South Lake Tahoe to attend SnowGlobe. Family members and friends helped South Lake Tahoe Police Department, Douglas County and El Dorado County sheriff’s departments, Douglas County Search and Rescue, FBI and air support from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office search for her.
Kindred Murillo, president of Lake Tahoe Community College, said more facts are needed before they discuss whether or not the case will impact the music festival’s future in the South Shore. The college was planning to discuss the event even before Byrne was reported missing, and once the board has more information they’ll move forward with a decision.
The comments that the college has received regarding the event are almost all positive and she hasn’t heard complaints about transportation to and from the event, Murillo said.
“I think SnowGlobe did everything they could to make sure attendees were safe. I don’t think we’d be doing our job if we didn’t look at this. It has to affect (the discussion) because the thing you always have to try to do when you’re an educator and community member is provide the safest environment you can,” Murillo said.
The LTCC Foundation to assist Byrne’s family. People looking to donate can contact the foundation at 530-541-4660 ext. 245.
A tweet from the SnowGlobe festival at #itsSnowGlobe Friday afternoon expressed the event organizers’ sympathy for the teen’s family. Event producer Chad Donnelly did not immediately return a phone call after officials confirmed the identity of the body.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Alyssa Byrne. Our deepest sympathies go out to Alyssa’s family and friends. We appreciate the quick response from South Lake Tahoe officials in responding to the investigation,” the tweet read.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.