BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The car Bakersfield Police had been seeking in connection with the death of a southwest Bakersfield woman in her burning home, has been found abandoned.
Police refused Sunday to release further information about the 2002 white Dodge Intrepid, including where or when it was found.
They have described the death of Clara Basta, 56, "suspicious in nature."
Firefighters responding Saturday morning to a call of smoke coming from a southwest Bakersfield residence found her body in the garage at 4207 Kilkenny Court.
Two Bakersfield Fire Department trucks arrived at the house, in the King's Rowe subdivision, at approximately 7:56 a.m. Saturday, when firefighters discovered the body, and several small fires burning inside the single-family house, according to Bakersfield police Sgt. Frank Gonzales.
Bakersfield Police Department officers responded at 8:07 a.m. to assist firefighters, and remained on-scene throughout the afternoon as police and coroner's vehicles came and went, including the arrival, shortly after midday, of a mobile crime lab.
"Upon arrival, officer located a deceased female inside of the residence, and it appears to be suspicious in nature," Gonzales said. "It appears to be there was some fires that were set, but we don't know the extent. There's very little damage to the house, because the fire department was able to extinguish that."
A second car associated with the residence, and a second woman have been located, Gonzales said, but he declined to release specifics about her relationship to the dead woman.
However, Bakersfield resident Danny Subriar, who spoke to a reporter, during a visit to his ex-wife and son in the 4200 block of Kilkenny Court, identified the two women as sisters, and said the second woman left the house late Friday for Seattle, to board a cruise for Alaska.
"Whatever burned really stunk. It wasn't just, like, a house fire. This smelled really different. It's like a plastic smell," Subriar said. "My son was going to stay with me tonight, but after what happened, he doesn't want to leave his mama. We just got into the truck and he said, 'I wish they'd broken into our house.' He feels really bad."
In a brief interview with The Californian, Bakersfield resident Tracy Terrel revealed a few key details about the women who lived in the house on Kilkenny Court, before telling a reporter that Bakersfield police had instructed her not to answer any questions about what may have taken place in the house.
Terrel confirmed the identity of the deceased woman as her aunt, Clara Marie Basta, and confirmed that Basta lived in the house on Kilkenny Court with her sister, Victoria La Rue Terrel, who is Tracy Terrel's mother.
"She's not making it. She's on her way home this evening," Terrel said, referring to her mother's cruise. "Unfortunately, I've been through this before, five years ago, when my son's father passed away in the oil field."
Terrel was referring to U.S. Navy veteran Julius A. Askew, father of her son Riley James Edward Terrel, who was 3 when his father, an oil field worker, collapsed and died May 16, 2008, on the Cymric oil lease in McKittrick.
Gonzales declined to identify either woman, referring a reporter to the Kern County Coroner's office for questions on the identity of the deceased woman.
The Kern County Coroner's office issued a press release Saturday evening with Basta's name and age.
Gonzales did say Bakersfield police had spoken by telephone to a woman in Seattle, and that the woman would be returning to Bakersfield.
Gonzales said he believed that the woman drove from Bakersfield to Seattle, but he did not know what car she drove.
"We're going to try to make arrangements to get the person down here so we can speak to them," Gonzales said, noting that police want to interview the woman in person, to confirm her identity.
Sunday morning, the garage door at the residence was covered with plywood.