The body of missing Jolissa Fuentes has been found two months after she disappeared, prompting police to credit “divine intervention” after facing criticism for their investigation into the case.
The body of the 22-year-old woman was found inside a crashed car at the bottom of a 400-foot cliff in a rural area of Fresno County north of Pine Flat Lake, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said at a news conference Tuesday.
Selma Police Chief Rudy Alcaraz found the body at the crash site after theorizing that Fuentes was possibly tired and may have fallen asleep while driving when she crashed.
“As a woman of faith, I believe she was divinely channeled into that area,” Sheriff Mims said.
Fuentes was last seen around 4 a.m. on Aug. 7, a night after she left a family gathering to retrieve some belongings from her home on Nebraska Avenue, Selma. He was seen driving a 2011 Hyundai out of a gas station and has not returned since.
“I just got lucky to find the location where her car went off the road,” Chief Alcaraz said. He said he saw tire tracks in the dry bush after stopping his patrol car near a bend in the road.
The official cause of the crash has not yet been determined, but investigators believe the woman was involved in a one-car accident.
Investigators used drones to track the possible path of the tire tracks. After locating the car, the rescue crew used 475 feet of rope to lower the 250-foot cliff and then down a second cliff to retrieve the body, Sheriff Mims said.
He said the area was steep and had dense vegetation that caused law enforcement to lose track of the rappels.
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.
Fuentes’ parents, Norma Nunez and Joey Fuentes, stood by law enforcement, fighting back tears at Tuesday’s news conference. She thanked investigators and the public for their support and efforts to find their daughter.
“I want to thank the community, not just the community, the whole nation. The screams and pain of my wife, my brothers and my family were heard throughout this country,” Mr. Fuentes said, fighting back tears.
He thanked Chief Alcaraz, saying, “He’s my hero.” The two hugged after his comments.
Investigators had swept the area west of Selma with the help of family members and used drones in their desperate search.
But the movement of the rescue team was blocked due to dense foliage and heavily forested mountains.
The search for the woman is being treated as a “criminal matter” after the Fuentes family had earlier repeatedly criticized police for being slow to act on her disappearance.
Her mother, Norma Nunez, had said The independent Last month, it took the local police department nearly two weeks to take the investigation seriously, leaving the family to rely on loved ones and volunteers to search the town’s vast vineyards and orchards for signs of Jolissa.
Chief Alcaraz said foul play is not suspected.
Independent search and recovery dive team Adventures with Purpose had also joined the search last week. The team was involved in the search for missing teenager Kiely Rodni at a Northern California reservoir earlier this month as well.