The last time Maricela Garcia was seen alive was one night in January, when she left a Goodwill store in Reseda so she could smoke a cigarette.
Garcia’s siblings said the 26-year-old seemingly vanished without a trace, leaving behind her car, her purse and an anguished family.
On Wednesday, officials identified a decomposed body discovered in Santa Clarita earlier this month as Garcia’s.
The remains were found March 7 about 20 miles away from the Goodwill store in a remote area along Golden Valley Road, west of Robert C. Lee Parkway.
Authorities said Garcia had been reported missing Jan. 13, the day after she disappeared from the Goodwill store along Sherman Way. Her disappearance was under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department and drew media attention.
“I see her every day,” friend Kiana Jones told KTLA-TV around the time Garcia vanished. “She doesn’t just wander off by herself.”
But three days before disappearing, Garcia appeared distraught and told her sister that she had a secret, Sarah Garcia told the Los Angeles Daily News.
Garcia’s mother later posted a public letter to the Facebook page Help Find Maricela Garcia, asking police to inspect a cellphone and choker found near the place where she was last seen alive.
“That choker in your evidence room? That was her favorite thing to wear. I swear she would sleep and shower in it if she could!” the mother wrote in the letter, which was reported by the Los Angeles Daily News. The Facebook page has since been deactivated.
“If you look at it now, it’s obvious from the way it looked to have been ripped off her neck, that she will never wear it again,” the letter continued. “It’s all torn and tattered. I cannot allow myself to think of how it came to be that way.”
At the time of Garcia’s disappearance, police said there was no sign of foul play, but the confirmation of her dead body prompted a homicide investigation.
The coroner’s office has not yet determined what caused her death.
Anyone with information about Garcia’s death was asked to contact detectives at (323) 890-5500.