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WEST VALLEY CITY — A woman who was found dead on a Colorado highway Sunday was identified as a West Valley City resident who had been missing since Aug. 6, police say.
Family members saw Maria Maricela Astorga-Chavez, 32, leave in a white Ford Expedition with a man named Javier Huerta, according to Roxeanne Vainuku with the West Valley City Police Department.
A Colorado Department of Transportation employee found her body on I-70 in Summit County, Colorado Sunday afternoon.
West Valley City police have worked with Colorado authorities to determine if it was Astorga-Chavez and identified the body Thursday, Vainuku said.
The cause of the death is unknown, and the results of the toxicology reports are currently unknown. It will be a matter of weeks before autopsy results reveal Astorga-Chavez's cause of death and how long she was deceased before her body was found.
In the meantime, police have enough evidence to investigate the death as a homicide, Vainuku said.
Police said investigators located a crime scene in West Valley City where they believe Astorga-Chavez died. They located the car in a different area. The car was known to be driven by Huerta at a different location.
The vehicle was secured and "will be analyzed for evidence," Vainuku said.
Vainuku declined to specify where in West Valley City Astorga-Chavez may have been killed.
"We believe that location could be a key element in our investigation at this point," she said.
Police consider Huerta as a person of interest in the potential homicide and are asking the public to help locate him.
We believe that location could be a key element in our investigation at this point.
–Roxeanne Vainuku, West Valley City Police Department spokeswoman
Vainuku said Huerta and Astorga-Chavez were acquaintances, but police don't know if their relationship was beyond that.
They know Astorga-Chavez left with Huerta willingly at some point, though she was acting unusually. They do not know what she was planning to do after she left.
Huerta is described as Hispanic, around 5 feet 10 inches tall and 160 pounds. He is known to have used the name Jorge Martinez in addition to other aliases.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call 801-840-4000.
Contributing: Marc Giauque, Ben Lockhart