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Authorities identify body as that of missing Moreno Valley girl

July 21, 2010 |  2:29 pm


Authorities on Wednesday positively identified the partially decomposed body found on the desolate outskirts of Moreno Valley as that of Norma Lopez, the 17-year-old high school student who police suspected was abducted after summer school.

The Riverside County coroner’s office made the determination after a morning autopsy.

Wire_l5vvd9nc The body was found Tuesday afternoon by a local resident doing yard work in a remote section of town surrounded by wheat fields, just off the 60 Freeway. 

Exposed to the elements during the recent heat wave, the remains were so decomposed that authorities could not immediately determine the sex of the deceased, let alone whether it was Norma's body, said Riverside County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Joe Borja.

Borja said investigators still have no suspects in the case, although a newer model green SUV was seen speeding away from the area where Norma  disappeared. 

Norma was reported missing about 12:30 p.m. Thursday by her older sister, Sonja, after she failed to return home from a summer biology class at Valley View High School. She was out of class by 10 a.m. and had plans to meet her older sister and a friend, authorities said.

Investigators said they found some of Norma's belongings, and signs of a struggle, in a vacant field along Cottonwood Avenue, a popular shortcut among students just a few blocks from the school. They are also looking for the driver and passengers of the SUV seen near the field at the time of her disappearance.

On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Department announced a $35,000 reward for information leading to Norma's return or the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for her abduction.

Investigators from the Sheriff’s Department and the FBI have interviewed dozens of friends and associates, as well as local felons and others who crossed paths with police. Authorities urged anyone with information about the case to call (877) 242-4345, or send an e-mail to findnorma@riversidesheriff.org.

-- Phil Willon in Moreno Valley

Top photo: Riverside County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Joe Borja speaks to the media today. Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times. Bottom photo: Norma Lopez