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Body Is That of UCI Student Who Was Missing; Suicide Suspected

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A body found along the shoreline Tuesday has been identified through dental records as that of Melissa Li, a 22-year-old UC Irvine student missing since Jan. 27.

An autopsy confirmed that Li had drowned and had been in the water “for some time,” Newport Beach Sgt. John Desmond said.

Detectives are handling the case as a suicide, after receiving information from Li’s parents that she was distraught in the days before her disappearance.

“There is no evidence of foul play at this time,” Desmond said.

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A local resident spotted the body shortly before 5 p.m. in the surf near 47th Street. The site is several miles south of Sunset Beach, where Li’s car was found.

Li had lived in Fountain Valley with her parents, Bill and Julie Li, who said they heard stirrings in her room early on Jan. 27. Later they discovered she and her car were gone, although her purse, which contained money and credit cards, was in her bedroom.

The couple searched Li’s favorite beach areas, where she often went to pray, and discovered her light blue Toyota Corolla about five miles from the house. The car was illegally parked in a cul-de-sac often used by bus drivers as a turnaround point near Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.

Li was an honors student majoring in English, linguistics and social studies. She also performed with an area Christian dance troupe.

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