A 21-year-old woman who was stabbed to death early Thursday in Merced was described by her family as a warm, caring and loving mother, daughter and friend.
Brittany Dutra’s death’s marks the city’s sixth homicide this year, Merced police Lt. Chris Goodwin said in a news release. Police said the death does not appear to be gang related.
Police found the victim in an apartment just after 3 a.m. in the 2300 block of K Street. She had stab wounds throughout her body. Medical personnel also responded, but she died at the scene from her injuries, investigators said.
Family members described Dutra as a warm, outgoing person and a loving mother of 3-year-old twin girls. Her cousin, Amanda Gose, said Dutra enjoyed watching her little girls dance. The girls are being cared for by family members, Gose confirmed.
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“She’s just a beautiful soul who is now gone,” Gose said in an interview. “It’s devastating, really. They (her parents) are devastated. You never expect to get a phone call at 3 o’clock in the morning, let alone one from the police about your child.”
Dutra graduated in 2011 from Yosemite High School, Gose said.
Dutra also struggled, at times, with darker issues, including drug use, county records show. She had been arrested and was facing felony weapons charges, which police said may have been part of a recent pattern that possibly contributed to Thursday’s tragedy.
Lt. Matt Williams said investigators had not ruled out the possibility that drugs and alcohol may have played a role in the incident.
Gose acknowledged Dutra had “some struggles,” but said her cousin was doing everything she could to work through her personal issues and was focusing on her children.
“It’s definitely not what the family wants to talk about. It’s more important to focus on her beautiful soul,” Gose said. “She’s going to be missed so much. She had such an amazing life ahead of her, and it’s such a tragedy it was cut so short. We’re truly heartbroken.”
Police declined to comment on any possible suspect information. It was unclear whether the weapon used in the attack had been recovered.
Williams said police are still looking into any possible motives for the incident.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Sgt. Scott Skinner at 209-385-6913 or 209-385-4702. Those with information also can call the Merced Police Department’s Tipster Line at 209-385-4725. The public can send information anonymously by texting to 847411 and including “Comvip” as the keyword in the text message.