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YOLO COUNTY — Early last week, kayakers in Putah Creek near Winters found a woman’s body near a bank on the Yolo County side.

“She was a great little student,” said Pam Boes, Amber Port’s third-grade teacher. “She was a good little girl but when she grew up more she was really helpful. Like if she saw me needing help, she would always come and help me.”

But in the end, there was no one to help Port.

Sheriff’s detectives are calling Port’s death suspicious but won’t know for sure how she died until toxicology test results come back.

News of the 23-year-old Vacaville woman’s death broke the hearts of those who knew her.

“Some of my fondest memories with her were having tea parties and she loved animals. She was such an animal lover. You would always see her rescuing kittens,” said Port’s childhood friend and next-door neighbor Mercedes Cullinan.

But life has its turns and as an adult neighbors say it was Port who needed rescuing.

“She had a drug problem and it was hard for her,” Cullinan said. “She tried. She went through rehab and her parents tried to help her.”

But eventually, neighbors say, she was kicked her out of the house and often slept in the trunk of her parents’ car just to stay warm.

“Even though all the struggles she was going through, she’s still … I’m sorry. Her light was still burning. She was fighting to live,” Cullinan said.