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No I.D. on remains near teen's disappearance

Norma Lopez was murdered in July 2010 after disappearing while walking home from summer school in Moreno Valley.

$35K offered in Moreno Valley missing case
July 20, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Authorities said they cannot identify the dead body found in Moreno Valley on Tuesday near where missing teen Norma Lopez was last seen.Norma, 17, disappeared Thursday after summer school at Valley View High School in Moreno Valley. She was last seen about 10 a.m. walking home from school, but she never made it home.

Human remains were discovered by a local resident in Moreno Valley near Dracaea Avenue and Theodore Street about 3 p.m. Tuesday. The location is 2 to 3 miles east of Lopez's home and the site of her disappearance.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Riverside County Sheriff's Sgt. Joe Borja said investigators have not determined the identity of the human remains. He confirmed there was a deceased body that was discovered by a local resident, but authorities had not reached the body's location, and it could be several hours before they did.

Borja said the body was considered a homicide until it was determined otherwise.

"Due to the body's condition, we're not even comfortable saying if it's a male or a female," Borja said.

An autopsy was scheduled at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Authorities said they may be able to say what the sex of the body is.

The Riverside County Coroner had not yet arrived at the time of the news conference, according to Borja.

Borja said it could take between one and seven days to determine the identity of the body, and it was not known if the body was male or female.

Borja said the Lopez family was notified of the discovery to warn them.

Investigators closed Theodore near Dracaea while the crime scene was active.

At 10 p.m. Tuesday, authorities held another news conference to announce that an autopsy will be performed on the discovered body. The body was said to be in a state of decomposition; with the recent Southland heat wave, it was impossible to say how long the body had been at its location.

Sheriff's deputies have used canine units and search helicopters, but have found no sign of Norma.

Police said they could not pinpoint Norma's location with a cell phone because she does not have one.

Investigators found evidence suggesting she may have been abducted. Some of her belongings were found in a field the teen often used as a shortcut to her home, authorities said, and there were signs of a possible struggle.

The Moreno Valley mayor, city council and the FBI announced a $35,000 reward in the apparent kidnapping of Lopez. They're hoping it brings in much-needed information about where she might be.

There was suspicion early in the investigation that Norma might have run away with her boyfriend, but deputies said they have interviewed the boyfriend and determined he was not a suspect in her disappearance.

Over the weekend, search crews passed out fliers in Moreno Valley. The search was expanded to Riverside, Redlands and Perris.

It's been an incredibly difficult time for family members, who say they haven't been able to eat or sleep.

"If the person that took her is out there, please let her go," said sister Elizabeth Lopez during a press conference Tuesday. "She hasn't done anything to anyone to deserve this at all."

Community members said they believe the body found is Norma's. "Hopefully, she didn't have tu suffer," said Christa Sanchez of Moreno Valley. "If it is her, my heart goes out to the family."

"Sick people do sick things, and he's going to suffer eventually, or whoever did it," said Moreno Valley resident Michael Guillen."

Authorities said Norma had no apparent problems at home and do not think she is a runaway.

Anyone with information related to Norma's disappearance is urged to call Moreno Valley Police at a hotline designated for this case: (877) 242-4345.


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