18-year-old found dead near UCSB 'was the perfect student'

Giselle Esme Ayala
Giselle Esme Ayala

The cause of death of the 18-year-old Cal Poly freshman found dead in the ocean in Santa Barbara over the weekend will not be known for up to six weeks as investigators wait for toxicology results.

Giselle Esme Ayala of Santa Rosa was found Saturday morning near UCSB’s Campus Point by a jogger.

She was described Monday as bright, outgoing and friendly.

“She was the perfect student,” said Cal Poly professor Benjamin Timms, who taught a geography course that Ayala took in the fall. “She was the kind of student you want to have in class. ... It makes you happy to go and teach when you have students like her.”

Ayala always sat in the front row of the large class and stood out because she was so engaging, Timms said. “She came to every class and was one of the top five kids in the class. She always had a smile on her face.”

“She was so promising,” Timms said. “That’s what kills me.”

The 18-year-old was a first-year sociology major from Santa Rosa and a resident of Yosemite Hall.

She was last seen about 11 p.m. Friday by her friends. They had traveled to Santa Barbara for Deltopia, a spring break party in Isla Vista.

Her body was found without identification near the surf line west of Campus Point at 8:20 a.m. Saturday by the jogger, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating her death.

An autopsy was done Monday, but the cause of death will not be released until toxicology results are back in four to six weeks, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

Ayala graduated in 2012 from Santa Rosa High School’s ArtQuest program, where she focused on singing, according to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

Keith Humphrey, Cal Poly's vice president for student affairs, said that administrators were working closely with students saddened by her death to make sure that they had the emotional support they needed.

“We are working within all academic areas and with her friends to make sure our network of support is as broad and deep as possible for everyone on campus,” said Humphrey.

Ayala’s death was the second involving a Cal Poly student this year. On Feb. 10, Brandon Huang, 20, died after passing out just outside the Poly Canyon Village residences. His cause of death also had to undergo toxicology checks, and a determination has not yet been released by authorities. Huang, from Orinda, was a sophomore biology major.

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