New details are emerging about a fatal accident between a bicyclist and an SUV that took place earlier this month, killing a Gainesville woman who had been accused of abusing her dogs.
Loren Elizabeth Cava, 68, of Gainesville died in a late-morning crash on Sept. 1 after being pinned beneath a two-ton Jeep Liberty SUV. Firefighters had to lift the vehicle off her before she could be taken to a hospital, where authorities pronounced her dead.
A newly released Gainesville police report obtained by WUFT News said Cava was riding her bicycle in the crosswalk and had the right of way when she was struck by the Jeep driven by Sohair A. Mohammed, 50, of Alsip, Illinois, who was turning left through the intersection. Investigators concluded that Mohammed was “inattentive” and operated her vehicle in a “careless/negligent manner,” the report said.
Mohammed told police she didn’t see Cava on her bicycle until the last moment, just before the Jeep struck Cava’s bicycle. Cava was pulled under the Jeep and dragged across two lanes of traffic before the Jeep struck a nearby light pole, police said. The police report cited testimony from at least three witnesses to the crash and said the accident was captured on surveillance video from two nearby businesses.
Mohammed, who had a Florida driver’s license, has not been charged with any crime, according to court records. Traffic homicide investigations sometimes take months to complete.
Mohammed could not be reached to discuss the accident. She has no listed phone number in public records and under a new Florida law, the phone numbers and home addresses of drivers in car crashes are censored in police accident reports. A family member of Mohammed’s did not return phone messages for over two weeks.
The Alachua County State Attorney’s Office had filed nine misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals charges against Cava in January 2023, responding to complaints from across the community that she had mistreated dogs in her care. Witnesses said she was seen dragging dogs on leashes while walking and riding her bicycle and recorded the sounds of dogs crying in pain inside her home.
Cava was so reviled in the community that social media groups were dedicated to tracking the animal abuse complaints against her. One person described her dogs as emaciated, “skin and bones,” and dragged on their leashes as she struck them. Prosecutors formally dropped the charges against her five days after she died in the crash.
Cava’s brother, David Cava, 66, of Elk Grove, California, said prosecutors had notified Cava hours before her death that they did not intend to pursue the criminal charges against her.
At least one Facebook group that chronicled complaints against Cava was shut down after the fatal accident by its administrator, Loly Hauscarriague Bouchard of Gainesville.
“This is NOT the kind of justice that me and all the ones that fought to free the dogs in her care ever wished for,” Bouchard wrote.
Insights into Cava’s life from court records and testimony from Cava’s own family suggest her life story was complicated. She said in court documents that she had suffered brain damage as an infant and that a bicycle was her only means of transportation around Gainesville.
Cava attended a special needs school as a child, and her home was filled with figurines of dogs, David Cava said.
“That was the home of someone who genuinely lived the life of a child-like innocence,” he said. “This was somebody who lived the life of innocence, a life that I can only believe would be of kindness.” He added, “All of us who knew Loren knew that she had her challenges.”
The siblings discussed Loren Cava moving to California amid her legal problems, David Cava said.
Her family, in her obituary, said she had lived alone in her home since 1984 and since 1976 had rescued no fewer than 20 dogs that otherwise would have been euthanized from local animal shelters. The family requested contributions to the Humane Society of North Central Florida and urged people to adopt stray dogs in Cava’s memory.
“She lived for and loved her dogs above all else and without reproach,” the family wrote in her obituary.
One of Cava’s neighbors, Matthew Lewis, 34, said he saw Cava walking her dogs multiple times every day. He said he never witnessed Cava hitting the dogs but described them as underweight and said she often dragged them by their leashes and yelled at them.
“She wasn’t an evil person. I think she needed mental health and wasn’t getting it,” Lewis said. “I think multiple people brought this up to (Gainesville Police) and brought it up to animal control and nothing was really ever done.”
At Cava’s funeral services Wednesday, large stuffed toy animals that looked like dogs were placed atop her casket.
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