The remains of a 3-year-old Reno, Nev., girl were found Saturday morning in a remote canyon near Fillmore after the girl's stepfather led Reno police to the spot where he had dumped her body, officials said.
The girl's stepfather and mother were arrested on suspicion of murder, officials said.
Police in Reno had been searching house to house for Mailin Thao Stafford since her mother reported her missing at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, officials there said.
But Reno Police Lt. Nick Bloomster said that after the first day, investigators began to suspect that the girl's family members were involved in the disappearance.
"They didn't report her missing until a full day after she was gone," he said. "And there had apparently been a history of child abuse in the family."
Police initially suspected that Mailin's grandparents might be involved in her disappearance because they had been fighting with the girl's mother for custody of the 3-year-old, Bloomster said.
On Friday, however, they focused their attention on Mailin's stepfather, Carlos Perez Gutierrez. After a lengthy interview, Gutierrez admitted that he had beaten Mailin and that the girl died after a beating on Wednesday, Reno police said.
Police said Gutierrez and the girl's mother, Tara Ray Gutierrez, drove Mailin's body to Grimes Canyon Road near Fillmore and threw it down a steep hillside.
Ventura County sheriff's deputies said they joined Reno police in a search of the area Saturday and found the body about 10 a.m.
Neighbors told the Reno Gazette-Journal that Mailin "seemed to be a nice, quiet girl."
"She'd be looking out the window every time we came home from work and she would say 'hi' to us," one neighbor said. "But I never saw her outside being rowdy or loud. She seemed to stay home for the most part."
An autopsy is scheduled to be performed this morning by a Ventura County coroner, officials said.