Butte County authorities on Thursday were waiting for dental records to positively identify a body they found Wednesday as that of missing 11-year-old Jeanene Bonner of Altadena.
The body was found under a blanket less than a quarter of a mile from the pickup truck where Bonner’s father, Joaquin Garcia, 35, had committed suicide.
A sheriff’s investigator in the Northern California county, Sgt. Andy Duch, said the Downey truck driver is believed to have shot his daughter in the head before killing himself. Her bloody clothes were found in the pickup with Garcia’s body last week.
Bonner had been with her father for several days of visitation on a trip starting May 21 that took them from Southern California to Las Vegas and then, mysteriously, hundreds of miles to Northern California. Her mother and father did not live together.
Bonner’s mother, Kim Almodovar, was not available for comment Thursday, but Duch said she had been cooperating closely with the search.
A spokeswoman for the Polly Klaas Foundation, the group founded after the kidnap-murder of a 12-year-old girl in Petaluma, said statistics show that children are killed more often by their parents than by outsiders.
The Klaas Foundation had offered its services to Bonner’s family after she disappeared. The spokeswoman, Jenni Thompson, said that although it is natural for a child to trust in a parent, it is also true that “people need to be aware that children are sometimes at risk from parents.”
Almodovar said at a news conference Friday that Garcia had been behaving strangely for about a year, cutting his ties with friends, taking drugs and exhibiting streaks of bad temper with his daughter. However, she said that he had returned her more or less on time from other visitations.
Thompson said, however, that “Jeanene’s mother was at no fault whatsoever in this tragedy. She did what she was supposed to do--allow the father visitation--and it would have taken a long court process to change the terms of that.”
Bonner was a sixth-grade honor student at Loma Alta Elementary School in Altadena. School spokesman Erik Nasarenko said Thursday that a team of counselors has been sent to the school to help any students or teachers feeling stress as a result of what has happened.
The parents, faculty and community supporters of Loma Alta school will hold a memorial vigil tonight at 7:45 p.m. in Farnsworth Park, near the school, at Lake and Mount Curve avenues.