APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. (AP) — Dozens of law enforcement officers on Thursday searched through the Arizona desert after badly decomposed human remains that may be those of a missing college student from Tempe were found in a dry wash.
Tempe police Sgt. Michael Pooley said the remains found Aug. 6 in a sparsely populated part of Apache Junction on the eastern outskirts of the Phoenix metropolitan area haven’t been formally identified but that they have similarities with Adrienne Salinas, 19.
Pooley declined to elaborate on the similarities and said police are awaiting the results of DNA testing.
The Gateway Community College student has been missing since early the morning of June 15 when she left her apartment to head to her boyfriend’s home.
Police have said she never got there and that her damaged car was found several blocks from her apartment. It had two flat tires, apparently from hitting a curb.
Salinas called for a cab but wasn’t at the designated pickup spot when the cab arrived, police have said.
Police have searched the desert area near State Route 88 several times since the initial discovery and returned Thursday to search a larger area. News helicopter video showed searchers using shovels to dig and scrape in various places.
The wash is dry now but it was flooded by a major storm in recent weeks, Pooley said. “We don’t know if the body was washed down in the wash or if it was dumped here.”
He said the searchers included Tempe and Apache Junction police, FBI agents and trained volunteers. They’re looking for clothing, jewelry and any other evidence, he said.
Police will contact residents who live in homes in the area about whether they heard or saw anything suspicious or had surveillance video.
“We don’t know exactly what was left out here and that’s why we’re here,” Pooley said. “… This is a big mystery.”
Davenport reported from Phoenix.