News

Missing woman found dead off of East Bay freeway

Authorities discover Wamaitha Kaboga-Miller in vehicle under tree branches

The body of Palo Alto woman Wamaitha Kaboga-Miller was found in her car in Newark on Sunday, more than five weeks since she went missing, police said Monday.

The discovery was a tragic conclusion to a baffling disappearance that had confounded her family, law enforcement and friends and led to multiple searches of the region by volunteers.

Kaboga-Miller, 66, was reported missing after leaving her Crescent Park home on Aug. 17. California Highway Patrol officers found her body in a vehicle off of state Highway 84 east of Thornton Avenue in Newark, where they were responding to a separate crash involving an overturned car shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday.

Her silver 2002 Mercedes-Benz CLK 430 was found under heavy brush and tree branches about 25 feet away from the unrelated car crash, according to police. An officer ran a check of the license plate number, which matched Kaboga-Miller's.

Emergency crews found a woman, later identified by the Alameda County Coroner's Bureau as Kaboga-Miller, sitting in the driver's seat, police said. They determined she had been in the car for "an extended period of time" and pronounced her dead at the scene. On Wednesday, the coroner's office said the cause of death was still under investigation.

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The 66-year-old was considered at-risk because she recently had back surgery, couldn't walk far without a walker and was without oxycodone needed to suppress the pain from the procedure.

She was last seen at Country Time Market in East Palo Alto, the morning of Aug. 17. Aziz Khalil, co-owner of the market, told the Weekly that she seemed incapacitated and needed assistance in pulling out her wallet to pay for two packs of Marlboro Lights cigarettes.

Kaboga-Miller's family and friends held weekly search parties for her, including one in late August in East Palo Alto and another in Redwood City earlier this month.

Her family also offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts.

On Monday, Sophia Kaboga-Miller, her daughter-in-law, said the family wasn't ready to issue any comment. They learned about her death on Sunday.

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Dawn Billman, a neighbor, said she and the family had held out hope of finding Kaboga-Miller alive. They thought she might just walk through the door one day.

Kaboga-Miller was helpful when Billman's daughter was ill. The families pulled together in crises, she said.

"They have been my neighbors since I moved here in 1990. She was just such a happy spirit, raising two wonderful young men," she said of Kaboga-Miller's two adult sons, Njoroge and Clovis. "It's a loss for the community. Wow. I'm just shocked."

CHP investigators are looking into the circumstances surrounding when and how Kaboga-Miller's vehicle ended up off of the freeway, according to a CHP press release.

Family and friends said they didn't understand why license plate readers on the bridge did not pick up her car.

CHP spokesman Officer Manuel Leal said on Wednesday that the bridge does not have license plate readers on the eastbound side, the direction in which Kaboga-Miller was driving. The readers are only on the westbound side at the toll booths. He was still looking into whether there are cameras of any kind on the east side, however, he said. CHP has not had any contact with the family and the investigation was handled by Palo Alto police, he said.

In an email response on Wednesday, Palo Alto police spokeswoman Janine De la Vega said that the department had followed all possible avenues.

"Our detectives checked cameras on the span of the bridge and those cameras did not have sufficient enough resolution to detect Kaboga-Miller's vehicle. This missing person case was a priority for our investigative division. We had detectives working this case for weeks, but unfortunately without credible information to point us in one particular direction or another, we were never able to find her. We feel terrible for her family and wish this would have had a positive outcome," she said.

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Missing woman found dead off of East Bay freeway

Authorities discover Wamaitha Kaboga-Miller in vehicle under tree branches

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Sep 24, 2018, 1:11 pm
Updated: Wed, Sep 26, 2018, 6:53 pm

The body of Palo Alto woman Wamaitha Kaboga-Miller was found in her car in Newark on Sunday, more than five weeks since she went missing, police said Monday.

The discovery was a tragic conclusion to a baffling disappearance that had confounded her family, law enforcement and friends and led to multiple searches of the region by volunteers.

Kaboga-Miller, 66, was reported missing after leaving her Crescent Park home on Aug. 17. California Highway Patrol officers found her body in a vehicle off of state Highway 84 east of Thornton Avenue in Newark, where they were responding to a separate crash involving an overturned car shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday.

Her silver 2002 Mercedes-Benz CLK 430 was found under heavy brush and tree branches about 25 feet away from the unrelated car crash, according to police. An officer ran a check of the license plate number, which matched Kaboga-Miller's.

Emergency crews found a woman, later identified by the Alameda County Coroner's Bureau as Kaboga-Miller, sitting in the driver's seat, police said. They determined she had been in the car for "an extended period of time" and pronounced her dead at the scene. On Wednesday, the coroner's office said the cause of death was still under investigation.

The 66-year-old was considered at-risk because she recently had back surgery, couldn't walk far without a walker and was without oxycodone needed to suppress the pain from the procedure.

She was last seen at Country Time Market in East Palo Alto, the morning of Aug. 17. Aziz Khalil, co-owner of the market, told the Weekly that she seemed incapacitated and needed assistance in pulling out her wallet to pay for two packs of Marlboro Lights cigarettes.

Kaboga-Miller's family and friends held weekly search parties for her, including one in late August in East Palo Alto and another in Redwood City earlier this month.

Her family also offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts.

On Monday, Sophia Kaboga-Miller, her daughter-in-law, said the family wasn't ready to issue any comment. They learned about her death on Sunday.

Dawn Billman, a neighbor, said she and the family had held out hope of finding Kaboga-Miller alive. They thought she might just walk through the door one day.

Kaboga-Miller was helpful when Billman's daughter was ill. The families pulled together in crises, she said.

"They have been my neighbors since I moved here in 1990. She was just such a happy spirit, raising two wonderful young men," she said of Kaboga-Miller's two adult sons, Njoroge and Clovis. "It's a loss for the community. Wow. I'm just shocked."

CHP investigators are looking into the circumstances surrounding when and how Kaboga-Miller's vehicle ended up off of the freeway, according to a CHP press release.

Family and friends said they didn't understand why license plate readers on the bridge did not pick up her car.

CHP spokesman Officer Manuel Leal said on Wednesday that the bridge does not have license plate readers on the eastbound side, the direction in which Kaboga-Miller was driving. The readers are only on the westbound side at the toll booths. He was still looking into whether there are cameras of any kind on the east side, however, he said. CHP has not had any contact with the family and the investigation was handled by Palo Alto police, he said.

In an email response on Wednesday, Palo Alto police spokeswoman Janine De la Vega said that the department had followed all possible avenues.

"Our detectives checked cameras on the span of the bridge and those cameras did not have sufficient enough resolution to detect Kaboga-Miller's vehicle. This missing person case was a priority for our investigative division. We had detectives working this case for weeks, but unfortunately without credible information to point us in one particular direction or another, we were never able to find her. We feel terrible for her family and wish this would have had a positive outcome," she said.

Comments

Elizabeth
Downtown North
on Sep 24, 2018 at 1:45 pm
Elizabeth , Downtown North
on Sep 24, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Sadly, this is what I predicted after she'd been missing for a few days.


So Sad
another community
on Sep 24, 2018 at 2:02 pm
So Sad, another community
on Sep 24, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Right from the beginning, I did not have a good feeling about the likely outcome. Rest in peace.


Heartbroken
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2018 at 2:34 pm
Heartbroken, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2018 at 2:34 pm

This is such sad news.

Our deepest sympathies go to Ms. Kaboga-Miller's family.

May she rest in peach.


Heartbroken
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2018 at 2:34 pm
Heartbroken, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2018 at 2:34 pm

*May she rest in peace...


Bikermom
Mayfield
on Sep 24, 2018 at 2:44 pm
Bikermom , Mayfield
on Sep 24, 2018 at 2:44 pm

I had been wondering if the other side of eh bay was ever checked. So so sad to hear this news. My deepest sympathy goes out to her family.


Gus L.
Barron Park
on Sep 24, 2018 at 4:06 pm
Gus L., Barron Park
on Sep 24, 2018 at 4:06 pm

The explanation "East of Thronton" is a big area, was it just over the bridge before 880? or further east up Niles?
Sad news, wish they had located her earlier, they may have been able to help.


Joann Murray
East Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2018 at 4:09 pm
Joann Murray, East Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2018 at 4:09 pm

I am so saddened to see this news come across my news feed, My family and I prayed for her safe return. Seeing her posters almost daily, had such an impact on me. I pray she did not suffer. My condolences go out to her family and to those who knew her.


David
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2018 at 4:37 pm
David, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2018 at 4:37 pm

To the family, sorry for your loss. It’s not the outcome everyone was hoping for.


musical
Palo Verde
on Sep 24, 2018 at 5:28 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Sep 24, 2018 at 5:28 pm

@Gus, I'm guessing somewhere in the first 2000 feet past the Thornton interchange. 25sec at 55mph. Beyond that there's right-side guardrail. Google street-view shows various clumps of dense foliage. I hadn't seen any speculation that she'd gotten this far. Puzzled no witnesses on the freeway came forward. Should have been fair amount of Friday morning traffic on that stretch. Sad outcome. I've seen so many fliers posted out by our Baylands.


eileen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 24, 2018 at 9:37 pm
eileen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2018 at 9:37 pm

Why didn't the police help find this woman? She was just off Dumbarton Bridge! She may have lived
a longer life if she was found sooner. A sad outcome for her family. :-(


Palo Altan
Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2018 at 10:03 pm
Palo Altan, Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2018 at 10:03 pm
CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2018 at 11:50 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2018 at 11:50 pm

It did not read to me that Eileen was blaming the police. She asked a
fair question that probably occurred to most people. It was certainly
not "insulting and ignorant".

[Portion removed.]

There is traffic all day and all night in this area, and it is unusual that
something like this country happen and no one would see or report it.
Asking how or why might uncover that brush needs to be removed or
trimmed back, or some other contributing factor that needs public
attention.


john_alderman
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 25, 2018 at 7:08 am
john_alderman, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2018 at 7:08 am

"Why didn't the police help find this woman?"

Judge for yourself whether Eileen was blaming the police.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2018 at 7:22 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2018 at 7:22 am

Posted by eileen, a resident of College Terrace

>> Why didn't the police help find this woman? She was just off Dumbarton Bridge! She may have lived a longer life if she was found sooner. A sad outcome for her family. :-(

I think that is a legitimate question. Most freeway/highway rights-of-way are a kind of no-man's land. When constructed, the strips of land are treated kind of like parks, but, there is very little money allocated to maintain those strips of land, and, no real incentive for taxpayers/government to maintain them as parks, because they are dirty, noisy environments. There is a lot of square miles of brush along an awful lot of highways for CHP to search.


Tracker
another community
on Sep 25, 2018 at 8:22 am
Tracker , another community
on Sep 25, 2018 at 8:22 am

>There is traffic all day and all night in this area, and it is unusual that
something like this country happen and no one would see or report it.
Asking how or why might uncover that brush needs to be removed or
trimmed back, or some other contributing factor that needs public
attention.

>>There is a lot of square miles of brush along an awful lot of highways for CHP to search.


Like some prisons, police search and rescue teams should have bloodhounds for these kinds of scenarios.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2018 at 9:19 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2018 at 9:19 am

For those who think PAPD should have looked here for her, I wonder if they have jurisdiction to search across the bridge or if that should be some other PD?

Apart from the fact that they appeared to be busy looking where the family thought she might have gone which is EPA, RWC, PA, and that they felt crossing the bridge was unlikely, there is no reason to blame PAPD for not finding her sooner. My own thoughts were that they should have been looking this side of the bridge in case she had gone off the road before crossing, but yes the other side was likely too.

It is easy with hindsight to say they should have found her sooner, but it is hard to see how they could have known where to search without some credible information to make them search any given area.


Creole54
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2018 at 9:41 am
Creole54, Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2018 at 9:41 am

When I heard this morning I was relieved for the family because the family doesn't have to wonder anymore. I was sad for the family because of the tremedous burden to suffer. I have been following this story from the beginning and praying for a glorious recovery of peace in the hopes she was alive. I will keep the family in my prayers and thoughts for recovery during this sadden time in their lives.


Eila Hughes
Registered user
University South
on Sep 25, 2018 at 10:14 am
Eila Hughes , University South
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2018 at 10:14 am

Sad news.

I'm glad her family has answers as the "not knowing" can be horrendous.


Carol B
Menlo Park
on Sep 25, 2018 at 10:42 am
Carol B, Menlo Park
on Sep 25, 2018 at 10:42 am

Such sad news. Heartfelt condolences to her family. May she rest in peace.


Dilettante
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Sep 25, 2018 at 12:04 pm
Dilettante, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2018 at 12:04 pm

Sad news. I remember reading shortly after she disappeared that her car's license plate had not detected by plate-readers on/near the Dumbarton Bridge, so the search was confined to the Peninsula. Sadly, it appears that her car did cross the span; I surmise she tried to take the off-ramp and had this tragic accident. My deepest sympathy to her family.


musical
Palo Verde
on Sep 25, 2018 at 1:02 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Sep 25, 2018 at 1:02 pm

^ No reason for a license plate reader in the non-toll direction.


Local
Barron Park
on Sep 25, 2018 at 7:06 pm
Local, Barron Park
on Sep 25, 2018 at 7:06 pm

So heartbreaking. It does lead to a lot of "what ifs", especially since the security camera at the store recorded the direction she took after leaving. We were praying for the family. I hope at least search procedures can be improved so something like this never happens again. I hope the family at least has some peace. So sorry this happened.


Debbie S.
Community Center
on Sep 25, 2018 at 9:24 pm
Debbie S., Community Center
on Sep 25, 2018 at 9:24 pm

After hearing Mrs. Wilaitha Kaboga-Miller was found yesterday. I am extremely disappointed, having sent in a tip to have the area searched near the Dumbarton bridge. I knew she wasn't far, and had hoped she was found sooner! My deepest condolences go out to the Family, Friends & Community. R.I.P Mrs. Wilaitha Kaboga-Miller.


musical
Palo Verde
on Sep 26, 2018 at 2:19 am
musical, Palo Verde
on Sep 26, 2018 at 2:19 am

>> "... the security camera at the store recorded the direction she took after leaving."

The only direction I saw was Mrs Kaboga-Miller walking toward the parking lot.
Was there more video than what was posted publicly?
The Market is miles from the bridge, and at least half a dozen signal lights.


KS
South of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2018 at 7:56 am
KS, South of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2018 at 7:56 am

So terribly sad. I feel terrible for the family, what a horrible situation all around.

From the moment I read about this in the news and learned about where this woman was last seen (driving toward the Dumbarton bridge) and her physical state, I had a strong feeling that she was across the bridge and in a car wreck. It seemed very obvious and likely given the circumstances. Once you start driving in that direction there is no turning back and you end up crossing the bridge. I never understood why that wasn't the focus of the search, either by foot or use of drones or anything else. I'm sad to say I wasn't surprised when I heard of where she was found.


CB
Downtown North
on Sep 26, 2018 at 9:18 am
CB, Downtown North
on Sep 26, 2018 at 9:18 am

We are so very, very saddened to hear of Waimaitha's death. She was a cheerful, energetic and caring person to work with at the Food Closet. We all miss her. CB


CellPhoneTracker
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 27, 2018 at 12:22 pm
CellPhoneTracker, Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 27, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Did she not carry a mobile? Assuming not, everyone carries one and we can easily ping the mobile device and receive a GPS location. Just like Google and Facebook track all of our locations, let's not forget the countless of app that do this secretly. Also, hwy 84 is heavily congested at all hours - Nobody saw the car swerve into the shoulder? Also, what did she do between the visit to the store and the crash? There are many hours presumably lost between the purchasing of cigarettes and the time of day/night when you can crash/swerve into the shoulder of hwy 84 and not one person noticed? Wow, I have so many questions!


Steph
Stanford
on Oct 10, 2018 at 11:50 pm
Steph, Stanford
on Oct 10, 2018 at 11:50 pm

I drive by that very location every night/morning when going home from work. It's really hard to see anything in that area during the night because it's dark. Plus driving by at 65 MPH makes it even tougher due to all the grown-up trees, grass, and bushes there. I believe it's sort of like a small embankment there too. I feel bad that I never noticed her car there. It's horrible to think I drove by someone in distress and didn't help. I feel so sad she had to die like that. God bless the family and God rest her soul.


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