Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s deputies are investigating the death of a woman, found Tuesday morning, at Abiquiú Lake.
Major Randy Sanches said it appears Lucia Fields, 40, of Santa Barbara, Calif., crashed her Toyota truck into the reservoir inlet, then crawled out the back of the cab, into the bed of the truck and onto dry ground.
Fields had been visiting relatives in Abiquiú, for the past few months.
He said she was frozen solid, which made it hard for deputies to do any on-site examinations, but they did find bumps, bruises and scratches consistent with crashing into the lake.
“We know it was 17 degrees at the dam at the lowest point last night,” Sanches said.
She appeared to make it out of the truck without touching the water.
“She doesn’t appear to be wet,” he said.
Footprints indicate she walked around, after getting out of the truck, before she wrapped herself in a tarp and lay down on a rock.
“From the scene, we could tell she had been moving around,” Sanches said. “It’s odd that she didn’t go anywhere. She was sitting in a different location and there were some snacks that she ate. Then she went to that rock to lay down.”
Sanches said he was not sure how long the woman had been outside before she was found by a Army Corps of Engineers employee. Cold weather stops decomposition, which investigators often use to identify the time of a death.
Capt. Billy Merrifield conducted a patrol of the dam on Monday night, at 7:30 p.m., and did not see her.
There was no alcohol in the vehicle.
Sanches said the tire tracks show she came into the parking area, then drove straight off the rocks and into the inlet.
He said, from what he could see, it appeared she had wounds consistent with her truck crashing into the rocks and then into the shallow part of the lake.
“She’s got a few obvious injuries,” Sanches said. “She’ll go for an autopsy, and they’ll see if there’s trauma.”
A pathologist will also draw her blood for a toxicology test, which could show if she had alcohol in her system.
The woman had a small dog with her and the County’s animal control officer took it to the Española Valley Humane Society.
The man who discovered her, who was working around the lake, said he wanted to remain anonymous.
When he saw the truck, he first thought it was someone who was drunk, crashed, then fled to prevent getting arrested. He started walking toward the vehicle.
“All of a sudden, I looked up and I saw a blue tarp,” he said. “I said, ‘I hope that’s not what I think it is.’”
He approached cautiously and called out.
“There around the lake, people fall asleep anywhere,” he said. “She didn’t respond, so I started getting closer and I identified she was a female.”
As he got closer, he saw she had a dog cuddled up between her legs.