Santa Barbara, Calif. – The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a death that occurred on Painted Cave Road. On Saturday, July 23, 2022, at approximately 9:59 p.m., deputies were dispatched to the area of Painted Cave Road north of Highway 154 for a report of a person down in the roadway. When they arrived, they found a male subject, later identified as 37-year-old Daniel Zuzinec awake and near a vehicle and a female subject, later identified as 45-year-old Nicole Lawson unconscious in the roadway. Medics responded to the scene and pronounced Lawson deceased. Zuzinec was detained and ultimately arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. Zuzinec experienced a medical emergency and was transported to an area hospital where he was booked in abstentia.
In the hours and days that followed, the Sheriff’s Office has been investigating this incident. The Sheriff’s Major Accident Response Team responded to the area for the traffic collision investigation and were assisted by forensic technicians. Sheriff’s detectives also responded to the scene to handle the criminal investigation. The Coroner’s Bureau conducted a death investigation that included an autopsy on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. This multi-faceted investigation remains ongoing and Lawson’s final cause and manner of death are pending toxicology.
Zuzinec remains in custody without bail at the Sheriff’s Office Main Jail for being under the influence of a controlled substance (misdemeanor), DUI causing injury (felony), and vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (felony) as well as a remand for previous pending charges.