A homeless mother sleeping in a California park was killed last week after she was run over by a lawnmower — and investigators left “chunks” of her body strewn across the grass, her family claims.
Christine Chavez, 27, was lying in the tall grass of Beard Brook Park in Modesto around noon on July 8 when an employee riding a John Deere tractor with a pull-behind mower swept the area.
The unidentified worker said he didn’t see the sleeping woman until he “noticed a body in the grass he had already made a pass through,” Modesto police said.
The employee called 911, but Chavez was pronounced dead at the scene.
Family members said their grief has been compounded by what they called a disrespectful, botched clean-up.
“They left big chunks of her all over the place, just covered up with the grass,” the victim’s sister Rosalinda told Fox 40.
“We have to go see the place because we wanted some kind of closure, and to be right there, looking at the ground, and then all of a sudden, seeing chunks of her, is horrible.”
“Even when they go and pick up a dog from the street they take more time.”
Chavez’s father, Christopher, said he was able to pocket pieces of his daughter’s bones, skull and teeth in the days after her death.
The woman’s family believes the careless handling of her remains might be because she was one of the city’s thousands of homeless residents.
Chavez, who has a 9-year-old daughter, had been transient for the last three or four years and often slept at the park, which was officially acquired by nearby E&J Gallo Winery the day before the tragic death, according to the Modesto Bee.
The 12-acre park is frequented by unhoused people and was once an authorized camping site for the area’s homeless before the ownership change.
Other homeless people said they saw Chavez wash her hair in the park’s creek before going to sleep on a hill near the playground and baseball field.
Twenty minutes later, the mower came through.
Chavez’s family is now calling for justice in their loved one’s death and for stronger city ordinances that protect homeless people.
“She didn’t deserve that for that reason, for being homeless,” said her older brother Randy Chavez, 33, of Arizona. “My sister was loved. The only thing she wanted was to be free.”
“We want ordinances to change so it doesn’t happen again. Regardless if they are homeless they are still people and should be treated the same as any other people.”