Saturday, September 8, 2012

Coroner identifies body found near American River as missing student Linnea ... - Sacramento Bee

For 10 weeks, more than a thousand volunteers have scoured the Sacramento area in search of Linnea Lomax.

That search ground to a halt Friday as the 19-year-old's family and friends â€" and even strangers â€" waited with hope and trepidation:

Had their relentless efforts and prayers finally produced some closure? And was it the ending they had all so feared?

A search team thrashing through a dense wooded area along the American River near Glenn Hall Park discovered the remains of a woman shortly after 10 a.m. Friday.

Sacramento police say the woman's body showed signs of decomposition, and late Friday the coroner's office issued a statement saying that the body had been identified as that of Lomax.

"The cause and manner of death are under investigation, however, foul play does not appear to be a factor at this point of the investigation," Coroner Greg Wyatt said in the statement.

The family also issued a statement saying they had "received confirmation tonight that the deceased person found by the American River this morning is their daughter Linnea Lomax … "

The family indicated that they would plan services and a public statement later, but the announcement appeared to bring to an end the massive effort to find Lomax that had left fliers with her photo in grocery stores, dry cleaners, shops and along the American River bike trail for months.

Lomax, who grew up in Placerville, had been missing since June 26, when she left outpatient counseling at a clinic not far from where the body was found. Her parents, Craig and Marianne Lomax, said she suffered a mental breakdown while studying for finals at UC Davis.

After 10 days of inpatient treatment, she began outpatient care â€" then disappeared.

The family asked for privacy Friday and thanked the multitudes of people who had helped search for their daughter.

"Arrangements for a celebration of life service are being made and details will be made public," the family statement said.

The body was discovered shortly after 10 a.m. during the first day of a sweep that was scheduled to last all weekend.

Brad Dennis, who organized the search, said that about 40 volunteers began about 7 a.m. Some roamed more populated areas, passing out fliers and reminding passers-by of the teen's disappearance; others combed the American River Parkway.

Dennis, a 46-year-old Florida man who serves as the search and rescue director for the KlaasKids Foundation, said a team leader discovered the body and immediately called police. Marianne Lomax, who was nearby, and other volunteers were quickly steered from the area, Dennis said.

He said the search continued for another two hours, until he called off the day's efforts: "It all becomes a very emotional period and it's very hard to get out there and search."

Linnea Lomax's parents eventually left the American River area to be with their other children. But Dennis said friends and volunteers â€" who had come from as far away as North Carolina and Alabama â€" struggled with a range of emotions Friday afternoon.

"If this is her, obviously no one wants that outcome, but the other side to that is that everyone has been working very hard and very diligently (for closure)," he said. "No parent wants to continue to go through this limbo period."

It was the second time this summer that the KlaasKids Foundation had helped organize searches for the 19-year-old.

Despite a significant response from authorities â€" Sacramento police, county sheriff's deputies, park rangers and chaplains all flocked to the scene â€" their presence was concentrated in a hot, remote section of the American River Parkway.

Not so far away, children played outside a nearby school, teens headed to the river's edge to escape the hot sun, and people relaxed at the park.

Jonel Jorgensen, who lives only a few hundred feet from the scene, said she was surprised by the news of the gruesome discovery.

She said there's quite a bit of foot traffic on the levee, and members of the California State University, Sacramento, ROTC program run by every morning chanting slogans.

Otherwise, she said, "It's a quiet area. Not much happens around here."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter @Kim_Minugh.

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