ORCUTT, Calif. - It's a hard reality for friends of 18-year-old Jennifer Benitez Ayala.
"She had a good heart [and] she loved everybody - that's why I connected with her," said Tina Rios who lived with Jennifer at the Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Maria.
"We're gonna miss her. We're still in shock, hoping that she's gonna still call us and say, 'Mom or dad.. Hi.. I want to see you.' It's really hard right now," said Valerie Cantero, who refers to herself as Jennifer's adopted mom.
Cantero is among several people who came together Tuesday night to pay their respects at a vigil on the corner of Winter and Goodwin road, where the hit-and-run accident took place.
Witnesses told the California Highway Patrol Jennifer stepped into the crosswalk against the red pedestrian signal and into oncoming traffic. That's when the driver of a ford explorer hit her and took off.
For friend Miguel Garcia, he says Jennifer messaged him on Facebook almost every day.
He received a message from her shortly before the accident asking for a ride, but he says he didn't see it till the next day.
"I'm shocked, you know? I don't believe it. She's in a better place now. I hope she's in a better place," Garcia said.
Now Jennifer's friends are looking for answers. "I don't know how someone could just hit a little girl and keep going and kill somebody, you know? I couldn't sleep with that, knowing that I did that to somebody," Cantero said.
The CHP is still looking for the man behind this hit-and-run accident. Anyone with information is asked to give them a call.