The 23-year-old had started her own clothing line and was on the cusp of graduating with a criminology degree when she was struck and killed on Highway 180 in a hit-and-run around 3 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2021.
Information given to the California Highway Patrol at the scene (and widely reported by media at the time) suggested that Elayda had been driving down the highway and had stopped and got out of the car, possibly to switch seats with another passenger, when she was struck.
“She was portrayed as not making good choices,” said Zoi Jones, a lawyer representing Elayda’s family.
Those statements weren’t true and were eventually updated with the CHP, but that caused a delay in finding out the truth about what happened, Jones said.
“That just really added to the grieving process.”
According to Jones, Elayda didn’t know how to drive and didn’t have a driver’s license. She had called someone she knew for a ride that night; a friend and temporary roommate.
That was the person who stopped the car on highway, Jones said, though it is unclear as to why, or what ultimately led to Elayda exiting the car.
Also unclear: Why the person lied to officers at the scene.
A message to the CHP about the incident was not immediately returned.
The family is looking to file civil charges against the man, Jones said.
In a statement, the family said that Elayda’s friends had betrayed her to avoid the legal consequences of their actions.
“After she was hit, instead of rushing to her side to aid or comfort her they conspired to blame the victim to avoid any responsibility,” the family wrote.
“People she trusted tarnished her reputation.”
Within a few days of the crash, the CHP located two suspects believed to be in the car that hit Elayda — a 16-year-old male and a 17-year-old female. Charges were eventually filed against at least one of the two; the one who had been identified as the driver.
Jones believes the person had been sentenced, but was unsure of the consequences. The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office said it would look into what could be disclosed about the case, but it is limited on what it can share about juvenile cases.
The family said Elayda’s death should be a warning about the dangers of stopping on a highway, regardless of the time of day or circumstances. They also urged people toward professional ride-sharing services such as taxis or Uber/Lyft.
“If Devan’s death helps save others, we know she would want that.”