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16-Year-Old Girl Found Dead Inside a Burning Car and the Driver Is Charged with Murder

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After a wreck rattled a Connecticut neighborhood Monday evening, authorities made an alarming discovery at the scene: A 16-year-old female passenger was found dead inside the vehicle.

Officials said the girl, Evalyce Santiago, had been shot three times — once in the hand and twice in the head.

Dominique Pittman, the driver, was quickly charged with murder in her death.

Evalyce Santiago/Facebook

“The state alleges the defendant committed a vicious murder of a 16-year-old,” Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt told a judge during Pittman’s arraignment this week, according to reports from the Hartford Courant.

Waterbury police first responded to the scene about 8:30 p.m. Monday after the single vehicle collision. Upon arrival, they discovered a car on fire there on the lawn of a home.

Officials said Pittman, 27, sustained minor injuries while Evalyce was dead inside the vehicle, where police allegedly also discovered a .357-caliber handgun.

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In addition to murder, Pittman is charged with one count of carrying a pistol without a permit, according to court records reviewed by PEOPLE.

Initially, Pittman told police there was another male in the car at the time of the crash but later changed his story and said he and Evalyce were the only people in the car, according to an arrest warrant obtained by the Courant. Pittman allegedly said Evalyce was shot after they struggled for his firearm during an argument as he was driving.

He allegedly told police he had had sex with Evalyce and she threatened to tell his girlfriend of six years, the warrant alleges. The teen’s friends have reportedly disputed this.

Dominique Pittman
Waterbury Police Department

At his arraignment, the state’s attorney told the judge, “[Pittman] attempted to mislead police, stating a third person was responsible for the murder.” She called him a flight risk.

Pittman’s bail was set at $3 million, according to the clerk of courts, and he remains in custody. His next hearing is set for Dec. 20. He has not entered a plea and attempts to reach his public defender were unsuccessful.

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Santiago’s friends and family gathered to mourn her at a vigil on Tuesday at the crash scene.

“I wish I could bring her back,” Christy Rivera, who attended the vigil, told local TV station WTIC. “I wish somehow she could come back because this is pain.”

“We’re all suffering. We don’t need this,” Rivera said. “To all this to happen and not even say goodbye or ‘I love you’ to her again, it just hurts.”