Mystery deepens after girl found dead in duffel bag; community holds vigil with balloons, stuffed animals
Los Angeles authorities are asking the public to help identify the young girl.
Los Angeles authorities are desperate for answers after the body of an unidentified girl was found in a duffel bag.
The girl's body was partially inside a black duffel bag when she was discovered by county workers Tuesday near an equestrian trail in Hacienda Heights, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. Scott Hoglund said.
The girl was believed to be between the ages of 8 and 13, according to the sheriff's department. There were no obvious signs of trauma, Hoglund said, and a motive is unknown.
Balloons, posters, flowers, stuffed animals and candles were left by mourners who sang and shed tears for the unnamed girl at a vigil Thursday night. Church leaders and politicians were among the dozens there, reported ABC Los Angeles station KABC.
Former FBI agent and ABC News contributor Steve Gomez, who lives in the Hacienda Heights area but is not involved in the investigation, said residents are in shock.
Gomez added that, based on his experience, the girl likely did not live in the area.
"She's not immediately recognizable to anybody," Gomez said Thursday. "What it leads me to believe is that this child is probably from an area not immediately near Hacienda Heights. She's probably from someplace outside of the general Los Angeles area, maybe even another state."
The sheriff's office said Thursday that the Hacienda Heights victim is not a 13-year-old girl who is missing from nearby Lancaster, California; investigators asked for the public's help in both cases.
Gomez also noted the significance of where the young girl's body was placed.
Hacienda Heights, a suburban community east of Los Angeles, is home to wilderness, disguising shrubbery and massive canyons, Gomez said. But the body was left near an equestrian and hiking trail frequented by county workers.
Investigators will spare no efforts to find out what happened.
"Whoever left the body, they were probably in a rush -- because they clearly didn't place the body in a place that would make it more difficult to find," he said. "It would be very difficult to find a body if they put it in the right place where there's all the brush and shrubbery."
Authorities have not determined if the girl was dead before being placed in the bag, Hoglund said.
Without answers from the public, the autopsy and the forensics in this case "will be even more important than ever," Gomez said.
Investigators are likely combing surveillance video from local businesses -- but may still hit a wall because the area has many small, winding roads without stores, Gomez said.
An autopsy will be conducted to determine cause of death, Hoglund said Wednesday.
“It’s a horrible tragic case our investigators are working diligently on to solve,” Hoglund said Wednesday.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva added, “Investigators will spare no efforts to find out what happened.”
Authorities described the girl as black, standing at 4 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 55 pounds. She was not wearing shoes.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.