Hit-and-Run Cyclist's Mother Pleads for Help Solving the Case

When he was struck and killed on his bicycle May 4, he was listed as a homeless man, but Joshua Raine Laven, 39, was anything but. He had friends and homes around the world.

Joshua Raine Laven, 39, was a photographer, a hairdresser and an adventurer who did things without holding back.

When he broke his jaw and hurt his back in an accident during a remodeling job, he found that yoga helped his pain. So he went to India and studied with a master for four months, so that he could share his knowledge with others.

He wasn't just a hairdresser. He worked for Jonathan Salon, the one in the reality show, Blow Out.

Even as a boy, he pushed the limits. His mother remembers him refusing to start bicycling with training wheels. He wanted to go full throttle on two wheels, even though he crashed a few times at the beginning.

When his closest friend died of a heart attack, Laven, 39, decided to honor him by riding across the country on his friend's bicycle. Because he wanted to bring his dog, a Cairn terrier named Ozziet, he did a lot of his riding at night to avoid the heat.

He left from his home on Cape Cod on his 39th birthday, Sept. 23, and was 100 miles from ending his trip in San Francisco when an unknown person struck his bicycle and left him on the side of Highway 1 by Wilder Ranch on May 4.

Ozziet, who waited by Joshua's bicycle after he was struck,  attracted the attention of cyclists who found his body thrown from the road.

This week his mother, Jennifer Putnam, came to Santa Cruz to ask for the public's help in finding the person who left her son to die on the side of the road. She will hold a press conference with the California Highway Patrol Thursday.

So far, the CHP says it is looking for a 2002-2005 Dodge Ram pickup and asks anyone with information to call (831) 796-2160.

"Please come forward if you know anything, if you've heard anything, if you've seen anything," said Putnam in an interview this week. "He's greatly missed by all of his friends."

Putnam, her sister Dilys Constantino, of Honolulu and Joan Leitner, the woman who found Laven's dog, met at District Attorney Bob Lee's office to discuss their need for a resolution to the case.

"I know it was an accident," said Putnam. "But how can they leave him there to die? Why not call 911? That would have been more humane. I feel bad for them. They have to live the rest of their life knowing they killed someone."

Putnam didn't find out about the death of her only son until three days after his body was found. She was told that police wouldn't go through his belongings, even though he had his passport on him, until the coroner had investigated the death. He was found at 10:40 a.m. by Leitner and her husband Steve, who were riding a tandem bicycle when they spotted Ozziet.

Lavin, a true dog lover, took the small terrier with him everywhere. Ozziet, 5-years-old, sometimes rode in a trailer behind the bike, sometimes in a basket in front, and sometimes in a baby carrier on Laven's chest.

Putnam and friends in Orleans, Mass, were distressed at early police reports saying that Laven was homeless.

"Home was a lot of places for him," she said. "People loved him everywhere he went. New York was a home; Boston was a home; Los Angeles was a home; India was a home."

He was bound for India after the bicycle trip to study more yoga. He got a 10-year visa to make sure he could study at the top levels and bring his learning to those who needed to relieve their pain.

His mother said he was a person who loved to make others happy and he could do that by curing their pain through yoga.

As a boy he once bit into a lemon and saw everyone laugh at the face he made."He was 2-years-old and he loved to see them laughing. He loved entertaining people from that moment on."

Laven, who took the southern route across the country, through Louisiana, Texas and Arizona, ended up staying longer in Santa Cruz than he had planned when the frame on his bike broke. He waited to have a new one built at the Scared of some of the transients he encountered around the city, he found an isolated campsite close to Davenport where he waited to resume his trip.

Last weekend, 20 cyclists rode on Highway 1 and put up a memorial to Laven, mounting his bicycle to a post where he died.

His mother worried about him taking this bicycle trip, but knew it was in keeping with his adventurous spirit.

"Of course I was worried," she said. "I was like, here's a guy who had back problems, broke his jaw traveling with a dog, and I'm thinking, 'My God.' But he was an incredible, incredible person."

Leitner, 50, from Capitola, said she has had trouble riding on Highway 1 since finding Josh's body. She hopes his death will inspire cyclists to support rail trails, bicycle lanes along abandoned railroad lines, to keep them separated from traffic.

"Santa Cruz is a good bicycling town," she said. "But it's not safe enough. We can do more to make it safer."






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