Marysa Nichols: Missing teen girl reportedly found slain near California high school

Undated photo of Marysa Nichols
Undated photo of Marysa Nichols

(CBS/AP) RED BLUFF, Calif. - The body of a 14-year-old girl was found in a field near a Northern California high school and police are investigating the death as a homicide, CBS Sacramento reports.

Pictures: Teen girl found slain near Calif. school

Red Bluff Police Chief Paul Nanfito said members of the Tehama Inter-Agency SWAT team found Marysa Nichols' body on Thursday morning near Red Bluff High School. Nanfito declined to say how investigators think she was killed or whether there was any evidence of sexual assault.

Police arrested Quentin Bealer, the man accused in Marysa's murder, on March 1, according to the Red Bluff Daily News. His arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

According to Nanfito, the teen's stepfather said Marysa was supposed to meet her friends for lunch at 11 a.m. on Feb. 26, but never arrived. Marysa was reported missing that day after she didn't return home from her independent study program at a charter school on the high school campus, according to the Record Searchlight of Redding.

Officers searched a field near the high school three times based on tips police received before finding the body, Nanfito said.

About 200 people gathered outside the Tehama County Courthouse on Thursday for a candlelight vigil. Family friend Sally Howarth said the teen's family is devastated, oscillating between "weeping and hysterical."

Lisa Escobar, superintendent of the Red Bluff Union High School District, extended condolences to the family and said the school has a safety plan to care for students' emotional and physical well-being.

"Our hearts go out to the family," Escobar said before a board meeting. "I think it's a community issue. We all need to work together."