Police confirmed Thursday they found the remains of a Provo student who had been missing for more than three years.
Now the missing person case is being treated as an active homicide investigation under suspicious circumstances
Elizabeth Elena Laguna-Salgado, 26, vanished without a trace on April 16, 2015. Her family continued searching and praying for years, never losing hope of finding her.
Police said they found skeletal remains in the upper Hobble Creek Canyon area on Friday. They identified the remains as Elizabeth Elena Laguna Salgado using her dental records.
The remains were found at 9 a.m. Friday when a man was driving up Hobble Creek Canyon above Springville, police said. The driver pulled over and walked into the forest area for some privacy. That’s where he found the remains and called the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
The body was no in a grave, according to officials, and was not in an area that would be seen from a trail.
Deputies with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office collected the remains throughout the day Friday and Saturday. Due to exposure, the remains were not easily identifiable.
The remains were sent to the medical examiner’s office for identification. The remains were positively identified through dental records.
"This is not how we hoped this would turn out," said Provo Police Chief Rick Ferguson.
Family members in California and Mexico were contacted about the discovery on Wednesday, though Thursday, officials said that some family in remote areas of Mexico still had not been notified.
Salgado, of Chiapas, Mexico, was only in Utah for 20 days before her disappearance. She had recently returned from an LDS mission in Mexico and came to Provo to learn English. According to her family, she felt Provo would be a good place to live and was a safe place.
She was last seen walking home in the middle of the afternoon from class at the Nomen Global Language Center in downtown Provo. But she never made it to her home at the Branbury Apartments complex.
Even after offering a reward for information, investing thousands of hours of investigation by the Provo Police Department, and other national and international agencies, including Interpol, there are still no substantial leads in the case.
Her family held dozens of rallies, vigils and search parties in Provo in an effort to find her. They daily wore shirts with Salgado’s picture and name emblazoned across the front.
The Salgado family also teamed up with the family of Elizabeth Smart and the Elizabeth Smart Foundation in the search efforts.