Body of Girl Discovered in Griffith Park : Remains in Trash Can Believed to Be Those of Santa Ana Youngster

Times Staff Writer

The body of a girl was found stuffed in a trash can near the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles this morning, and police suspect it may be a 9-year-old Santa Ana girl abducted as she walked home from school Monday.

Santa Ana police detectives were en route to Los Angeles to view the body and were seeking the girl’s dental records to help in identification.

The girl, Nadia Puente, a fourth-grader at Diamond Elementary School at Edinger Avenue and Center Street in Santa Ana, was seen by schoolmates getting into a small, gray car on her way home from school at about 2:10 p.m. Monday, police said.


The students said the driver was a Latino in his early to mid-30s with a goatee and short, curly hair. They heard him speak English to Nadia, they said.

Nadia’s parents, Armando and Sara Puente, reported her missing at 5:30 p.m. Monday. Santa Ana police launched an intense search of the neighborhood, using police dogs, search-and-rescue bloodhounds and helicopters from three neighboring police departments.

A door-to-door search was conducted by police teams, who handed out flyers with a photograph of the girl and her description. This morning police set up roadblocks at a five-mile radius around the neighborhood in an effort to locate witnesses.

Discovered by Transient

Shortly after 1 a.m. today, a transient who had been gathering discarded cans for recycling told Los Angeles police he found a girl’s body in a 30-gallon trash can on Observatory Road in Griffith Park.

Officers said the victim, wearing a black and white blouse, a black skirt and white sneakers--the same clothing Nadia had been wearing--apparently was already dead when she was crammed into the can in a fetal position.

In an attempt to preserve evidence, the victim was transported to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office in the trash can.

The abduction occurred near the intersection of Pomona and Greenville streets, little more than a half-mile from where another 9-year-old-girl, Patricia Lopez, failed to meet her mother after school in June, 1987, and was later found dead in a drainpipe at the Santa Ana River.