Norma Lopez, Missing Calif. Teen, ID'd as Murder Victim

Southern California Teen Norma Lopez Missing, Evidence Points to Abduction
Norma Lopez (Riverside County Sheriff's Dept.)
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.

More on the Norma Lopez Case on Crimesider

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