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

Norma Lopez (Riverside County Sheriff's Dept.)
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