PROVO — Investigators confirmed Wednesday that they have found the remains of Provo student Elizabeth Elena Laguna Salgado who had been missing for more than three years.
And police say the high profile missing person case is now a homicide investigation.
After three years of searching, authorities confirmed that skeletal remains found on Friday in the Hobble Creek Canyon area are those of Salgado. Investigators confirmed her identity Wednesday using dental records.
Salgado, 26, of Chiapas, Mexico, had only been in Utah for three weeks when she disappeared on April 16, 2015. She was in Utah to study English after completing an LDS mission.
She was last seen leaving class at the Nomen Global Language Center, 384 W. Center, in the middle of the day. But she never made it back to her home just two miles away at the Branbury Apartments, 449 W. 1720 North in Provo.
Family members say Salgado would talk to them regularly. But all communication with her stopped on that afternoon.
Despite intense searches, pleas to the public and a reward for information leading to her discovery, police had few leads over the years about what happened to her. Her uncle Rosemberg Salgado was joined by Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, on several occasions in pleading for information from the public about his missing niece.
The search for Salgado extended far beyond Utah. Investigators have been to her hometown in Mexico, where her parents currently live, and to the areas in Mexico where she served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to police.
The break in the case came on Friday when authorities say a man driving up Hobble Creek Canyon above Springville had to go to the bathroom and pulled off on the side of the road and went into some bushes. That's where he discovered the body and then contacted the Utah County Sheriff's Office.
While a cause of death had not been determined as of Wednesday, the location of the remains makes the case very suspicious, according to investigators.
Early on in the case, police said inconsistencies and the outcome of polygraph tests with two of Salgado’s uncles resulted in them being excluded from police updates to the family.
Police were expected to provide additional information about the case Thursday during a press conference.
On May 10, Salgado’s mother posted a note on Facebook praying for answers after “years of anguish and suffering” and asking the public to provide information about her missing daughter to police.
“Put yourself in my place, I beg of you as a mother, nobody would like to be through this nightmare," she wrote. "Give me my daughter because we cannot live with this sadness, despair, anguish and suffering.”
Family members in Mexico were notified by phone of the discovery Wednesday and family members in California were notified in person.