Authorities say unidentified body found near site where California teen disappeared

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Body found near site where Calif. teen disappeared

MORENO VALLEY, Calif. — Sheriff’s officials say a body has been found near the site where a 17-year-old girl disappeared on her way home from summer school in Southern California.

Sgt. Joe Borja says someone reported the human remains Tuesday. The body has not yet been identified, and it has not been determined if it is a male or female.

Family members of Norma Lopez had pleaded for her safe return earlier in the day.

The remains were found in a remote area about three miles from the site where Lopez vanished Thursday.

Authorities suspect she was kidnapped and have offered a $35,000 reward for new information that leads to the girl being found.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

MORENO VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Authorities offered a $35,000 reward Tuesday for new information in the search for Norma Lopez, a 17-year-old girl who authorities suspect was kidnapped while walking home from school.

The move came after efforts to find the girl stalled. Family members pleaded for her safe return.

“If the person that took her is out there, please let her go,” sister Elizabeth Lopez said at a news conference. “She hasn’t done anything to anyone to deserve this, at all.”

Norma Lopez vanished Thursday after attending a summer class at Valley View High School in Moreno Valley in Southern California.

Personal items and signs of a struggle were discovered in a field the girl often used as a shortcut home. Police went door-to-door, and searchers using dogs covered nearby areas for days.

Authorities have not identified any suspects or persons of interest.

“We have pretty much exhausted every means possible but are continuing to look for her,” said Sgt. Joe Borja of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

FBI investigators have talked to school friends and other acquaintances and continued to work with county investigators, said Don Roberts, the FBI’s supervisory special agent in Riverside.

“We have our own children, and it does not take much motivation for FBI agents and police officers to work day and night, as we are, to look for Norma and find clues that will lead to her recovery,” Roberts said.

Borja said investigators were acting on the presumption the girl was kidnapped.

“We contacted every friend, relative, everybody available that we can and there’s no information that would leave us to believe that she’s a runaway,” he said.

Borja urged the public to report suspicious strangers.

“We’re following up all leads, especially when it pertains to, you know, deviant behavior or behavior that’s not normal toward young females,” he said.

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