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Missing Moreno Valley teen's belongings were found along path she usually took, authorities say

July 17, 2010 |  1:01 pm

Mvs10-0715-1-norma-lopezAuthorities continued their search Saturday for a 17-year-old Moreno Valley girl who vanished Thursday while on her way home from summer school.

Teams of detectives and deputies scattered throughout the region have been looking for clues in the whereabouts of Norma Lopez. Police said there were signs of a struggle and that personal property was found along the path she usually took to get home from class.

"The teams are out there searching for her right now," said Det. Matt Diaz of the Riverside Sheriff's Department, which provides police services in Moreno Valley.

Norma was reported missing around 12:30 p.m. Thursday by her older sister, Sonja, after she did not return home from summer school, Sgt. Joe Borja said at a Friday news conference.

She was attending classes at Valley View High School and was out of class by 10 a.m., Borja said. The teen often took a shortcut through a dirt field located southeast of the school.

"She had plans to meet her sister and another friend," Borja said. "When she didn't arrive they began looking for her. They looked for approximately two hours, they looked in the dirt field and along the trail that she normally walks through and found some property belonging to her."

Investigators said there were signs of a struggle in the area, which caused them to suspect that she may have been taken against her will. Borja did not elaborate.

"They're personal belongings and they do belong to her, we've confirmed that," Borja said.

Investigators are also looking for the driver and passengers of a newer-model green SUV seen near the dirt field at the time of her disappearance.

"We're not saying it's the suspect's vehicle at this point because it may not be," Borja said. "But it was seen in that area…maybe they were witnesses to something that may have occurred."

Norma, who was last seen wearing a white, horizontal-striped sleeveless shirt with a floral pattern and black jeans, was described as a good daughter who attended school every day.

"She has never been in trouble, she has never run away in the past," Borja said. "We're not believing that she just ran away, if we did believe that, we probably wouldn't be here."

Standing in front of cameras, Norma's older sister spoke on behalf of the family.

"We miss her and we want her home safe," Sonja Lopez said, fighting back tears. "We just need you back."

Anyone with information about Norma's disappearance is urged to call the Riverside Sheriff's Dispatch Center at (951) 776-1099 or (877) 242-4345.

-- Ruben Vives

Photo: Norma Lopez. Credit: The Riverside Sheriff's Department

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