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Santa Rosa teen found on central coast beach died of head injury

Coroner's officials in Santa Barbara confirmed that a Santa Rosa teen whose body was found six months ago on a beach died from blunt-force trauma to her head after falling from a cliff.

Cal Poly student Giselle Ayala, 18, and several friends had traveled to the oceanside Isla Vista community for a spring break party, Santa Barbara County sheriff's officials said.

Ayala was last seen by her friends at about 11 p.m. April 5 at a party held at a cliffside home. She was outside when the hosts broke up the party and her friends dispersed, the coroner's report stated. Authorities believe Ayala fell from the cliff during that time. Her friends told detectives they didn't realize until later that night that Ayala wasn't with one of their acquaintances.

A jogger found Ayala's body on the beach the next morning.

The dangers of the cliffs in the community of mostly students pose a continued problem in Isla Vista, where large parties are common. A 21-year-old UC Santa Barbara student died November 2012 after a fall and at least three others have suffered serous injuries after falling off the cliffs since Ayala's death, most recently a 20-year-old female Santa Barbara Community College student who fell Sept. 28.

"Unfortunately, there is a long history of college students occasionally falling off the cliffs in Isla Vista and efforts that have been made to try and stop this from happening," sheriff's spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said in an email Thursday.

The County of Santa Barbara and the city of Isla Vista have installed fencing in some public areas along the cliffs, which has had a positive effect on reducing falls, Hoover said. But the majority of the cliff properties are privately owned.

The coroner's report noted that the amount of alcohol in Ayala's system was a significant condition related to her death. The slight teen had an "acute" blood-alcohol concentration of 0.145 percent, which is nearly double the legal amount for driving. She also had traces of THC in her system and her friends told authorities they had smoked marijuana, according to the report.

The Sheriff's Office closed its investigation in late September after investigators finalized the report. The process took nearly six months, in part due to the office's caseload and a concurrent investigation that ruled out any criminal acts, Hoover said.

Ayala's mother Thursday said the circumstances of her daughter's death do not reflect the positive effect the vibrant freshman, who was a rigorous student, had on those around her. Cat Ayala said her family wants her daughter to be "remembered for who she was: Bright, beautiful, loving."


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