Woman known for cleaning graffiti killed in road-rage crash

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SAN DIEGO -- A driver suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he became involved in a road rage incident was arrested Friday after his car hit a 69-year-old woman who was standing near a Mission Beach curb.

The victim was struck about 5:45 p.m. at the entrance to the jetty at 800 San Diego Place, suffered a skull fracture and was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, according to San Diego Police Department Officer Robert Heims. She later died at the hospital.

The victim's name was not released, but she was identified by the Mission Beach Women's Club as Maruta Gardner.

The 23-year-old suspect was driving a black Toyota Corolla when he and the driver of a white Ford Mustang became involved in a case of road rage, Heims said.

“The suspect sped to the right of the Mustang, driving along the shoulder and struck the victim,'' Heims said.

Nearby residents told FOX 5 she lived in the area for years and was known as the "graffiti woman" for her selfless acts of painting over graffiti.

"She's a wonderful, wonderful woman," said Ed Thile, a member of the Mission Beach Town Council. Thile said the council helps pay for expenses she incurs while taking care of graffiti in the beach area.

The suspect drove from the scene but was stopped nearby by officers, the officer said.

The man was evaluated and arrested on suspicion of DUI, Heims said.

The Mustang driver has not been identified.

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