Answers for Carissa
A family is still looking for answers after their daughter was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Desert Hot Springs.
It has been three and a half long years since Carissa Nwene was killed.
But her family, police, and now a private investigator continue to search for answers for Carissa.
"We still want justice for Carissa, it's always our first priority, justice for Carissa," said Carissa's mother, Shelia Barnett.
7:30 in the morning on November 16th, 2007, Shelia Barnett walked outside with her daughter, 14 year-old Carissa Nwene.
"I was telling her, you better hurry, you're going to be late to school, and it was like she didn't want to leave that day... I was like you better go, and I walked her halfway to the field and she left... I heard a boom, and I turned around to look and I didn't see anything, and I turned around, and I went into the house and went to work," said Shelia.
An hour and half later, the hospital called Shelia at work.
Carissa had been struck by a hit and run driver.
She died at the hospital, the driver still has not been caught.
"How could you kill a child, take their life from them, and not even have the decency to stop, even if you were afraid to get on the phone and say hey, I think someone just got hit, I don't know if she would have lived if the ambulance had gotten there sooner, because she wasn't found until an hour later," said Shelia.
Her family was left brokenhearted, and with many questions.
"Sometimes I think, I wonder if I'd said come in here and give your brother a hug, and come give me a hug, that little second, couple of minutes... we could have passed along that little moment," said Carissa's stepfather, Roland Barnett.
Desert Hot Springs Police say they are still occasionally getting calls with some new information.
Carissa was hit on Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs.
From broken parts of the vehicle police found, police said it was a late 90s, early 2000's Ford Econoline van--either white or gray.
Carissa would be 18 now, a senior in high school, about to graduate.
"Carissa was the oldest of my four children, she was smart, she was a helper, she was a praise dancer at church, she was an honor student, full of life," said Shelia.
"She was one of a kind, I had the pleasure of being there with Carissa since she was five, and she was just unique," said Roland Barnett.
Now a new pair of eyes is looking at the case, Cameron Gerber is a private investigator who made new videos to put information out to the public.
"It's been four years, and if we can get people to rethink it and get it out in front of everybody, I think it will help, and I think in the long run that's what's going to solve it," said Gerber.
He is working for free, Gerber says he just wants to help solve this case.
"My son is the same age, or was the same age when Carissa died, and as a parent it just stuck with me, and I want to do whatever I can."
And Shelia is glad he's on the case.
"It's like Cameron was sitting in the midst of us on video one where he was describing Carissa, like he had actually spoken to friends and family because I mean he nailed her personality to the T," said Shelia.
And looking at the story, Gerber has drawn a few conclusions.
"This wasn't somebody who got off the freeway to get gas, and got back on the freeway and disappeared into somewhere in Southern California or Arizona this was probably somebody who was probably local."
Also, he says the vehicle that hit Carissa may have been a service vehicle.
"The type itself tells me its someone coming into Desert Hot Springs to conduct business, whether its to pick up passenger, whether it's to do a service call for a customer, do a delivery."
"There may have been someone who worked on that vehicle and didn't realize it was the vehicle because they didn't know the story," said Gerber.
Lamar advertising put up billboards that still show the reward for information leading to arrest of the person who killed Carissa.
Police say even the smallest thing could be the piece that puts this all together.
And leads to answers for Carissa.
"I just think there needs to be closure, and with the new light in the videos, I'm hoping that will give people who know about this, the person who did it, the courage to step forward," said the Barnett's family friend, Sharon Hendricks.
Answers that Carissa's family needs to hear.
"To us her name is never going to die, or be gone, but we do want her name to be out there just as if she was here, still here with us."
An answer, after all this time.
"She was a unique and special person, and we'll just never get to see what she would have bloomed into."
If you have information:
Call Crimestoppers at 760-341-STOP.
Or call Detective Henson at 760-329-6411 extenstion 339.
Or even send an email to Desert Hot Springs Police at email@example.com
Private investigator Gerber also would like anyone with information to contact him either at the toll free number 866-684-3984 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.