The remains of a 6-year-old Norwalk girl who vanished nearly two years ago were found in a tied plastic bag along a freeway in Santa Fe Springs, authorities said Friday.
The body of Jackeline "Jay" Saavedra was identified Thursday through DNA analysis, and her parents were informed of her death that night, Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators said.
Detectives said they are continuing to follow leads, but declined to give specifics about how they believe Jackeline was killed or the circumstances surrounding her death.
"We will find the murderer of Jackeline Saavedra," said Sheriff Lee Baca. "We will not cease in our efforts to locate her murderer."
Caltrans workers discovered the remains inside a plastic bag Nov. 23 as they were cutting oleander bushes in the 13700 block of Firestone Boulevard along the Santa Ana Freeway, said Chief David Singer of the Whittier Police Department, which also serves Santa Fe Springs.
It took nearly three months to identify Saavedra's remains because investigators had to locate her parents to collect DNA samples. The samples were then sent to the state Department of Justice forensics lab in Richmond.
Authorities said the area where her body was found is about two or three miles from where Jackeline was last seen on Aug. 24, 2001. She was playing with dolls in a parking lot at the Pacific Pointe Apartments on Shoemaker Avenue in Norwalk.
Within 48 hours of her disappearance, nearly 100 sheriff's deputies and volunteers aided by bloodhounds and helicopters had searched the neighborhood, including places along the freeway, authorities said.
Sheriff's detectives had suspected that Jackeline boarded a bus with a man at Rosecrans and Shoemaker avenues. Bloodhounds detected her scent on the bus, officials said.
Investigators are still looking for the man, whose composite drawing was released within months of the girl's disappearance. Numerous leads were followed, including a tip in January that a girl fitting Jackeline's description was attending school in the San Jose area, said Capt. Warren Asmus of the Norwalk sheriff's station. The girl turned out not to be Jackeline, he said.
Norwalk Sheriff's Det. Mark Guerrero said he spoke to Jackeline's mother Thursday night after authorities identified the remains as that of the 6-year-old. "The mother is very traumatized," he said. "She acted like any other mother would have; she was very upset."