A would-be passenger stabbed a pregnant Lyft driver to death Sunday when she arrived to pick him up at an apartment complex in Tempe, Arizona, reports CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO-TV. He stole her SUV and was arrested soon after about 130 miles away. He then confessed, authorities said, adding they think he attacked the victim so he could take the vehicle.
Tempe police identified the victim Monday as Kristina Howato, 39, and said she was in her third trimester of pregnancy. Police Sgt. Ron Elcock said the passenger was Fabian Durazo, 20.
Elcock said Durazo attacked Howato with a knife when she pulled up. She was still in her vehicle. He continued to attack after she got out, Elcock said. Durazo then fled in her SUV, a 2005 silver Mercury. Witnesses reported seeing the vehicle drive away.
"He ended up killing her in the process of stealing the vehicle," Elcock said in an email to KPHO.
Howato was rushed to a hospital, where she and her unborn baby were pronounced dead.
Tempe police, with the help of the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the La Paz County Sheriff's Office, used GPS to locate Howato's SUV near Quartzsite, about 25 miles from the Arizona-California border. Durazo has family in California, authorities said.
"The suspect was arrested at that location without incident," Elcock said.
There was no indication Durazo was on drugs at the time of the attack, authorities said. They also don't think Durazo and Howato knew each other prior to the Lyft call.
Durazo was being held on suspicion of first-degree murder – one count for Howato and one for her unborn child -- as well as other charges.
Durazo will make his initial court appearance in La Paz County. After that, it will be determined when he will be transferred to Maricopa County, where the attack occurred.
Howato has two children – a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. They are with family members.
"Throughout our careers as officers, we have incidents that really, really touch our hearts and stay with you throughout your careers," Elcock said. "This is definitely one of those incidents that really is going to affect the police department for a long time, and the community will think about this for a long time."
"Swift action and outstanding police partnerships" are what led to the "rapid apprehension" of Durazo, Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir tweeted Monday afternoon.
"We were shocked and deeply saddened to learn of this tragedy, and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims," Lyft said in a statement emailed to KPHO. "The safety of the Lyft community is our top priority. The passenger's account has been permanently deactivated and we are actively assisting law enforcement with their investigation."
First published on January 29, 2019
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