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California

Detectives scramble to ID girl in ‘extremely rare’ case of body stuffed in duffel bag

Detectives are seeking to identify a young girl whose body was put into a duffel bag and left near a Hacienda Heights trail.

Los Angeles sheriff’s detectives are trying to unravel a horrific mystery that has garnered national attention.

Who is the young girl whose body was found Tuesday at a Hacienda Heights park? How did she die? And how did her body, which was stuffed in a black duffel bag, get there?

Here are some of the questions detectives are trying to answer:

What do we know?

The girl was black; between 8 and 13 years of age; 4 feet 5 inches tall; and weighed 55 pounds. Sheriff’s homicide Lt. Scott Hoglund said there were no visible signs of malnutrition or mistreatment.

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Her body was bent into a black roll-away duffel bag, her head and torso slightly protruding. Her body was dumped onto an embankment along a popular equestrian trail in light brush.

A worker for the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department who was clearing the landscape on the Hacienda Heights trail uncovered the girl’s remains Tuesday morning. She was found wearing a pink long-sleeve shirt proclaiming “Future Princess Hero.”

“It is a suspicious-death investigation. There were no obvious signs of trauma,” Hoglund said. “We don’t have any idea who this child is.”

An autopsy is slated in the next few days.

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Highly unusual

Dan Scott, a retired L.A. County sheriff’s sergeant who was involved in dozens of child abuse and death investigations, said the circumstances in this case are unusual.

“It is extremely rare to see a child’s body dumped,” he said. “I cannot recall one in recent years in the region.”

Scott said that even when a relative kills a child, the attacker often buries or conceals the body.

How will they identify her?

Scott said detectives are scouring missing persons data and also checking with schools and the Department of Children and Family Services.

Investigators are testing the bag and the girl’s body for DNA, hoping that whoever was involved in her death is already in the system because of a prior offense.

The outfit she was wearing may also be tracked to a particular store in order to narrow where the girl came from.

There were no video cameras in the park, but officials are checking nearby shopping center cameras.

Is it connected to other cases?

Sheriff’s officials on Thursday said there was no link between the dead girl and a missing 13-year-old girl from Lancaster.

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Homicide investigators carefully rechecked with those who had provided information on the missing girl — identified as Skylar Mannie — and were certain that the two cases are not related, according to Nicole Nishida, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.

Skylar is described as 5 feet 5 and 130 pounds, a foot taller and more than twice the weight of the girl found on the Hacienda Heights trail.


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