The body of a 26-year-old student from Mexico who disappeared in 2015 was found in Utah County and police are investigating her death as a homicide.
The skeletal remains of Elizabeth Elena Laguna Salgado, who was last seen on her way home from English class in downtown Provo, Utah, on April 16, 2015, were identified Thursday, according to police.
A man searching for camping spots came across a skull and clothing in Hobble Creek Canyon, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.
Salgado was identified through dental records, and her cause and manner of death remain under investigation.
Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy said it’s not clear “exactly how or why she ended up in Hobble Creek Canyon,” located about 15 miles from Salgado’s last known location.
Her remains were found “off the road and it was in an area that you would not find by being on a trail,” Tracy said.
The man who discovered her remains is not considered a suspect.
Provo Police Chief Rich Ferguson said investigators have “dedicated thousands of hours, and exhausted hundreds of leads, which includes traveling to Mexico with the FBI, to try to find facts about her disappearance.”
The Utah County Sheriff’s office will take over the investigation because of where the remains were found.
Salgado’s relatives, who were hoping she’d be found alive, were dismayed by the news.
“This is just terrible,” her uncle, Rosemberg Salgado said at a press conference Thursday.
“I can’t believe there are so many evil people in this world that would do that to another human being. We will find you whoever you are. We will find you.”
The sheriff’s office has not named suspects but says it is interviewing persons of interest in the case.
Salgado disappeared less than a month after moving to Utah from Mexico to study English at the Nomen Global Language Center.
She spoke little English, and is believed to have been taken “by force.”
One year after her disappearance, her family said they believed she was being held against her will.
Elizabeth Smart, now 30, who was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City as a teenager in 2002, joined efforts to locate Salgado, drawing national attention to the case.
Officials said the discovery marked a positive development in the case.
“We’re fortunate and thankful that this individual happened to get off the road and walk into the forest to make that discovery.”