Sara Mutschlechner was shot and killed on New Year’s Day in what police in Denton, Texas, are calling a road rage incident turned tragedy.
The 20-year-old University of North Texas junior was acting as the designated driver after a New Year’s Eve party when a dark-colored or black Toyota or Lexus SUV carrying five or six men drove alongside her car. The men in the car exchanged words with someone inside Mutschlechner’s car, then someone in the SUV fired multiple gunshots into the car, the Dallas News reported.
Mutschlechner was able to drive away from the scene but later crashed her car into a utility pole. She was found badly wounded on the ground nearby and was taken to a medical center. There, she remained on life support for much of the day on Friday but later died of her injuries.
Police and local media have described the slaying as a road rage incident, but there are no further details on the argument that may have taken place before the shooting took place. It was also not reported if Sara Mutschlechner, or anyone in her group, had an altercation with the assailants leading up to the shooting.
Some on social media have speculated that the shooting may be racially motivated, as Mutschlechner is white and the assailants were described as black, but police have given no indication that is true.
Friends and family members say they were shocked by the killing of Sara Mutschlechner, who remembered her as a kind-hearted student, the Dallas News reported.
Mutschlechner was a studio radio, television, and film student at UNT. Her LinkedIn profile said that she fell in love with movies as a child and wanted to “inspire change just as much as I want to inspire future filmmakers, like myself, to continue creating beautiful and original works of art.”
Sara Mutschlechner was also a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority at her college, and the group held a candlelight vigil at the campus Greek Life Center on Saturday. Many fellow members also shared their condolences online.
“I can’t even imagine how her [sorority] sisters must feel,” wrote Kim Poole, who was best friends with Mutschlechner her freshman year. “Love you all so much. AOE [Alpha Omega Epsilon].”
Local residents were shocked as well. While the Denton area has had some drug problems, residents say violence of this type was unusual.
Anwar Hussain, manager of a nearby Shell gas station, said he could never remember anything like the shooting occurring in the area before. Hussain was not working, but another employee heard the gunshots that killed Sara Mutschlechner.
“He thought maybe it was because it was New Year’s, but then he found out they had shotguns, then about 10 cop cars came,” Hussain said (via the Denton Record-Chronicle).
Police do not have a full description of the men who reportedly opened fire other than that they were all black and may have attended a New Year’s Eve party in the area. Denis McInerny, who was a DJ at the party, said he was surprised to hear there was violence after the party after what was a peaceful and celebratory evening.
“The whole shooting thing caught me off-guard judging by the crowd that was there,” he said. “I didn’t think the events were related in any way.”
Police said they are searching for the suspects and are calling for anyone who attended the party and may have information to come forward.
Police also said anyone with information on the killing of Sara Mutschlechner, or the alleged assailants, can contact Denton police investigator Eric Beckwith at 940-349-7974.
[Image via Facebook/San Marcos Mercury]