Family wants answers in case of woman found dead in garage

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The family of a woman found dead in the garage of her burning home wants answers from investigators. It's been about two weeks since Clara Basta, 56, was found after firefighters put out fires in the home and discovered the body. Police called the death "suspicious," but no suspect has been identified.

"I know it's an ongoing investigation," son Mark Basta said on Monday.

But, he told Eyewitness News he's frustrated by the lack of information.

"I hear everything second-hand, but yet I've given my contact information to everybody I've come across," he said.

Clara Basta's body was found Saturday morning, Sept. 7. Police reported her car was missing, and Eyewitness News was told it was found abandoned that night in the 100 block of South King Street.

The morning of the fire, crews reported they knocked down a small fire and then discovered the victim. A spokeswoman at the Kern County Coroner's office said last week that the cause of Basta's death is still "pending." For the family, that's another source of frustration.

"Now, I'm having to put a lot of energy into getting information, because I would like my mom's death certificate to have a cause of death declared," the son said. Mark Basta said his mother was buried on Saturday, and that provided him with some closure.

But, he still has so many questions. "She didn't have any enemies," Basta said. "She had a very kind and open heart." Clara Basta worked for a number of years for the Bakersfield City School District, most recently as a clerk at Stella Hills School. The son said she had retired, but had many friends from her school years.

Clara Basta had lived for a number of years in the home in the 4200 block of Kilkenny Court, along with her best friend. The son says the two women had considered each other "sisters," since he was a toddler.

The night before Basta was found dead, the other woman had left for Seattle. The son says he was shocked to get the call about his mother's death.

"I went to the site, I had to see it for myself," Mark Basta said. "And then I saw the police had the cul-de-sac taped off, and that's when it hit."

On Sept. 17, Deputy District Attorney David Zulfa told Eyewitness News his office got the case about the death from the Bakersfield Police Department, and he said it was "under review" by his office. There have been no arrests and no charges filed in the case. Zulfa said after a review by the DA's office, a decision would be made if any charges will be filed.

The son said he wants closure. "If they do find whoever did this to Mom, I don't want, and I don't wish them ill," Mark Basta said. "I just do hope that justice is served, I do. And, I hope they're punished according to the law."