(CBS/AP) WHEELING, W.Va. - A body discovered in southwestern Pennsylvania was identified as that of a missing 16-year-old girl who disappeared from West Virginia last summer, federal officials said Wednesday.
Remains found in Wayne Township, Pa. on Jan. 16 were confirmed as those of Skylar Neese of Star City, W.Va., said U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld, top prosecutor for West Virginia's northern district. The FBI did tests on her remains and now an investigation into her death is under way.
Skylar was last seen on surveillance video leaving her family's apartment and getting into a car on July 6, 2012. Her remains were found less than 30 miles from there in Greene County.
Her parents celebrated her 17th birthday without her last month, holding a candlelight vigil with both friends and strangers. The crowd released heart-shaped paper lanterns, which floated into the sky. Her aunt, Carol Michaud, told The Dominion Post that the teenager was an environmentalist, and she would have preferred them to balloons.
Skylar was an honors student at University High in Morgantown, and friends at the event described her as bubbly and kind.
A legislator from the family's district also recently introduced a bill called Skylar's Law to ensure that missing children's cases are handled with urgency. It would modify West Virginia's Amber Alert plan to issue public announcements when any child is reported missing and thought to be in danger, rather than just those believed to have been kidnapped.
Because Neese was seen getting into a vehicle, family members said authorities classified her as a runaway and no alert was issued. But they believe the girl intended to return, noting that she didn't take money, contact lenses or other personal items.
Delegate Charlene Marshall, D-Monongalia, said she understands that a surge in alerts might make some people stop paying attention, but she believes it's still the right thing to do.
Last week, an emotional David Neese appealed to the House Judiciary Committee on his daughter's behalf before it amended and advanced the measure.
"Changing this law, God forbid, may be too late for Skylar," he said, fighting back sobs. "But please allow for this bill to be debated on the floor so other families may not have to go through this horrible ordeal."