UPDATE | Authorities said today no human remains were found in a Kern County desert city where they believed the remains of a Long Beach woman missing since 2000 may have been located.
As part of a multi-agency effort, four areas of interest near West Boston Avenue and South Guam Street in Ridgecrest, California were excavated but all were ruled out when authorities failed to find human remains, according to the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD).
Since Long Beach police announced the reopening of the 16-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of Diana Raquel Rojas, 27, “several tips have been received,” officials stated.
Detectives are currently pursuing those tips and are hopeful more will come forward.
The investigation remains ongoing.
Excavation update: 1st area of interest ruled out. About 12:30p, began exploring a 2nd area pic.twitter.com/woMweuKNDN— Long Beach PD (@LongBeachPD_CA) November 17, 2016
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Diana Rojas or her vehicle are urged to call homicide detectives at (562) 570-7244.
PREVIOUSLY: Remains of Long Beach Woman Missing Since 2000 May Be Found Thursday in Kern County
Photo by Stephanie Rivera.
11/16/17 at 5:08PM | The case of a 2000 disappearance of a 27-year-old Long Beach mother that went cold after multiple dead ends has now resurfaced, following a recent anonymous tip leading detectives to Ridgecrest, California where tomorrow authorities from multiple agencies plan to excavate land possibly containing her remains.
Diana Raquel Rojas was last seen in her home on the 5500 block of Ackerfield Avenue in North Long Beach on the evening of Friday, October 20, according to Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) Sgt. Megan Zabel, who spoke to press during a news conference Wednesday morning.
“On Saturday she missed a scheduled appointment, which was very unlike her,” Zabel said. “By Sunday, her family was still unable to locate Diana or her vehicle and they called the Long Beach Police Department.”
Authorities described her vehicle as a black 1992 Nissan extended cab pickup with white pinstripes, and a Texas license plate of BY3242, and a missing driver’s side door lock and radio. The vehicle still has not been found.
Photos courtesy of LBPD.
At the time of her disappearance, Rojas was separated from her husband and living with her 2-year-old daughter. Police also said she worked at a church where she helped young single mothers. The evening of her disappearance, her daughter was in the care and custody of a family member at a separate residence, officials said.
“By all accounts, it was very uncharacteristic of Diana to leave her child without warning,” Zabel said.
Due to the mysterious nature of her disappearance and evidence found at her apartment that showed signs of foul play, homicide detectives responded to the scene. Interviews with several relatives and witnesses were also conducted. However, none of the information led to her whereabouts and the case went cold.
Over the years, police continued to receive several tips regarding Rojas’ presumed death and locations on where she might be located, but they never panned out, Zabel said.
Then they received a very good tip, she said.
Though Zabel wasn’t specific on when the anonymous tip came in, she did confirm that it mentioned Rojas was dead and buried at a specific location and that detectives were working on this tip for some time.
With the help of modern technology and tools as well as new detectives on the case, further investigation led officers to Ridgecrest, California—about an hour north of Palmdale—where they believe Rojas’ remains may be buried.
Zabel said detectives sought out help from the Colorado-based nonprofit NecroSearch, which specializes in finding clandestine graves and excavating human remains.
Diana Raquel Rojas. Photo courtesy of LBPD.
“Using satellite images of Ridgecrest, NecroSearch pinpointed areas where there are inconsistencies to the topography,” Zabel said. “Detectives called in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s (LASD) Homicide Bureau’s cadaver dogs that are trained to locate cadavers over 10 years old. During the search, the dogs showed interest in one of the areas.”
With the help of the Kern County coroner’s office, the Ridgecrest Police Department and a forensic geologist and forensic geophysicist with NecroSearch, authorities will excavate and attempt to find Rojas’ remains on Thursday. Zabel said the county coroner will oversee the excavation and take possession of any remains found. The RPD will provide equipment and resources and NecroSearch will use ground penetrating radar to help in the search.
Whether or not remains are located tomorrow, Zabel said the investigation will remain active.
“We believe there are people out there that know what happened to her,” she said. “We urge anyone with information regarding Diana or her vehicle to come forward and call our detectives. Our goal is to seek justice for Diana and her family and hold the person or persons responsible for her disappearance responsible.”
Authorities said there is no suspect or person of interest at this time. Rojas’ husband, who was interviewed by police, was not identified as a suspect at that time.
“It’s been 16 years; people out there know something and this has probably been weighing pretty heavy on their conscience and when they see that we have not let this go, we’re keeping on this case, I'm hoping that will tug at their heart strings, and have them come forward,” Zabel said.
Multiple relatives of Rojas attended the news conference Wednesday, which was held at LBPD’s headquarters. However, her brother, Solomon Cortez, was the only one who spoke.
“My sister has been missing for 16 years, that's something that me and my family have dealt with for a long time,” Cortez said. “We are here today looking for closure for my family but most importantly for my sister Diana. [...] We are asking the community, if there’s anybody out there with any information, anything, please help me and my family find closure by contacting the Long Beach Police Department.”
The investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information regarding Diana Rojas or her vehicle is urged to call Long Beach Police Homicide Detectives Mark Bigel and Todd Johnson at (562) 570-7244. Anonymous tips may be submitted through "LA Crime Stoppers" by calling 1 (800) 222-TIPS (8477), downloading the "P3 Tips" app to your smart phone (available at the Apple App store and Google Play), or visiting www.LACrimeStoppers.org.