New details in Petaluma teen's death; memorial service set

A 19-year-old Petaluma woman found dead in the snow near South Lake Tahoe appeared to have taken a wrong turn on New Year's Eve and wandered through the snow a short distance before shedding her winter jacket and coming to rest behind a snow bank, authorities said Monday.

Alyssa Byrne was found dead three days later, her boot prints the only ones in the vicinity. The pattern of the footprints suggested disorientation that may have been caused by alcohol consumption, hypothermia, or both, an El Dorado County sheriff's official said.

Alyssa Byrne vigil


"I don't want to speculate," sheriff's Lt. Pete Van Arnum said, though he confirmed authorities have received reports that Byrne had been drinking while in town with friends for an outdoor music festival.

He also noted that advanced hypothermia causes confusion and deteriorating cognition. Victims can become disoriented and lose judgment.

"It was subzero that night and, depending on how long she was out in the cold, that could have affected her," Van Arnum said.

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