Police in California have identified a decomposed body found in a dry creek bed near San Juan Capistrano as that of an Orange County woman who went missing in February.
Erica Alonso, 28, vanished early Feb. 15 after a fight with her ex-boyfriend. The Orange County Sheriff's Department did not name him as a suspect at the time of her disappearance, and his identity has not been released.
Alonso's remains were discovered Monday night by a team of biologists working in Cleveland National Forest. Her father, Isaac Alonso, rushed to the scene looking for answers when he learned remains had been found.
"I just hope it's not my daughter. I'm going to drive out there. I want to know. I want to find out. I want to find out," he told KABC on Tuesday. Hours later, he learned the sad truth.
Police were able to identify the woman from tattoos and other physical characteristics, but said the official ID can only be made from dental records and fingerprints, which will be examined in an autopsy Wednesday, KTLA reported.
Investigators work the scene where Erica Alonso's body was found.
The family gathered to console each other Tuesday night after cops identified the body, according to The Orange County Register.
"We never thought it was going to end like this. We kept hope until the end,” Isaac Alonso told the paper. In an interview with ABC Los Angeles, he said the development is "difficult to believe" and "a nightmare."
For months, the family posted fliers seeking the public's help in finding their missing daughter, held vigils and even offered a $5,000 reward for information.
Before the body was recovered, police treated Alonso's disappearance as a missing person case, saying there was no evidence of foul play. Investigators say the autopsy will help determine if the young woman was murdered, and how long her body was in the creek bed, according to CBS Los Angeles.
"[There's] no obvious sign of trauma that we've seen so far, but it's just a very preliminary examination of the body," OCSD Lieutenant Jeff Hallock told ABC Los Angeles. No cause of death has been released.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alonso was last seen by her ex and another couple following a night out at the Sutra Lounge in Costa Mesa. Family said Alonso had remained friends with her ex after their breakup, although KTLA reported that he'd filed a restraining order against her following a domestic dispute last November. The order expired a week before Alonso met her ex for a Valentine's Day date.
Police say the two met another couple at the lounge, and left with them to go back to the apartment of Alonso's ex around 1:30 a.m. Around 3:45 a.m., Alonso and her ex got into an argument, and the couple left his home. Alonso left about 10 to 15 minutes afterward, and that was the last anyone heard from her. On March 25, her white Honda Civic was discovered a mile from her home.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department said the investigation is ongoing, and encourages anyone with information to contact them.