A body has been found near the location where a teenage girl vanished on her way home from summer school, authorities in Southern California said.
Investigators do not know if it is that of Norma Lopez, 17, who was the victim of an apparent kidnapping last Friday in Moreno Valley.
The body was discovered 3pm local time on Monday, said Deputy Melissa Nieburger of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/19/normalopez.copy.jpg caption="Norma Lopez was believed to be last seen July 15 walking home from summer school" width=292 height=320]
“We cannot confirm who it is or even the sex of the body,” Nieburger told CNN. As far as identification, that can be anywhere from a day or five days depending on what we find.”
Nieburger said the body was found about two miles from where Lopez vanished.
Investigators believe Lopez, who is a junior at Valley View High school, was abducted on the morning of July 15. “There were signs of a struggle,” Nieburger said. “We believe that she was possibly taken against her will.”
According to police, Lopez had just left class at Valley View High School and planned to meet her younger sister and a friend at home. It is believed Lopez, who will be a senior in the fall, took a short cut through a dirt field to reach the family’s residence.
Her sister contacted the police when Lopez never returned home.
Personal items belonging to Lopez that were found in the field suggest that she may have been abducted, Deputy Nieburger said. “These are items that you would not leave behind,” she added.
Extensive searches for the missing teen continued today, Nieburger said. “This is an active investigation. We have utilized all our resources,” she told CNN. “We’ve used canines, bloodhounds, numerous units and all our detectives are still working the case.”
Police are looking for a green “SUV type vehicle” that was seen driving away from the area at the time Lopez vanished.
Nieburger asked the public to help in locating Lopez. “Obviously, we just want her to be found safe,” she said.
Norma Lopez is approximately 5’7” and weighs 110lbs. She has brown eyes and brown shoulder length hair. She was last seen wearing a black and white horizontal stripe sleeveless shirt, with a floral pattern and black skinny jeans.
Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact the Moreno Valley Police at 951-247-8700 or the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department at 951-776-1099.
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