MORENO VALLEY, Calif. (CBS/AP) Authorities identified a decomposed body Wednesday as that of 17-year-old Norma Lopez, who was likely kidnapped while walking home from school last week in Southern California.
An autopsy confirmed the identity of the girl, but investigators would not release a cause of death.
"I don't want to believe it's her," family friend Melanie Villarreal, 18, told The Associated Press. "We know she's in a better place."
Lopez vanished July 15 on her way home from a summer school class at Valley View High School in Moreno Valley, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
Police and the FBI have not identified a suspect in the case and have asked the public for help in the investigation.
"We do have a few leads that we're still following up ... but I wouldn't say that we're any closer," Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Joseph Borja said.
Deputies found personal items and signs of a struggle in a field Lopez often used as a shortcut home. Searchers covered the area for several days while the girl's family pleaded with the unknown kidnapper to let her go.
On Tuesday, a resident driving his tractor-mower in a large, remote field found human remains near a stretch of desert road a few miles from the site where investigators had searched. The decomposed body, shirtless and clad in jeans, was found face-down
in a grove of trees.
Borja said the parents of Lopez were the first to be contacted after the body was identified through dental records.
I believe this has been made personal because we all have children," Borja said. "It's probably our worst nightmare that our kids can just be taken from a street and killed."
Before the body was found, authorities held a press conference to say they were out of clues and to announce a $35,000 reward for information.
Borja said it was unknown whether the girl was taken by an acquaintance or a stranger. Her boyfriend had been interviewed and was not a suspect, Borja said.