PHOENIX — Remains found in a dry wash in Apache Junction, Ariz. were confirmed Thursday to be those of missing Arizona woman Adrienne Salinas.
The human remains were found Aug. 6 in a sparsely populated part of Apache Junction on the eastern outskirts of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Police said they identified Salinas using DNA evidence.
“We did receive information from the Department of Public Safety crime lab that the remains that were found last week are that of Adrienne Salinas,” Tempe Police Sgt. Mike Pooley said.
On Thursday, searchers in a 6-mile-long area of the wash walked in a line, an arm’s length apart, using shovels to look under sand and dirt that washed over the area in flooding from a recent storm. They were looking for clothing, jewelry, her cellphone and any other evidence, he said.
Investigators have recovered unspecified items from the wash that will be shown to Salinas’ friends and family for possible identification.
Pooley said investigators believe the body likely was dumped in another location and was later washed downstream.
The body was found by a man who was walking his property and was drawn to the area by vultures he saw.
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.”
Until the body was found, police had little go on, other than cellphone records showing calls she made to her boyfriend and a call to a taxi company. Investigators searched a lake in Tempe, canvassed her neighborhood on multiple occasions and interviewed hundreds of people. Salinas’ family handed out fliers in hopes of getting a break in the case.
The Gateway Community College student was seen by her roommates leaving their Tempe apartment in the early morning hours of June 15. She had packed a bag and told them she was headed to her boyfriend’s home in Scottsdale.
The boyfriend showed investigators he had 11 missed calls from Salinas around 4:15 a.m. the day she vanished, along with a text message that indicated she was on her way to his home, according to a police report. The boyfriend said she never arrived.
The next day, police found Salinas’ car about a block from her apartment. The doors were locked, the overnight bag she packed was gone, and there were no signs of a struggle. The car had front-end damage and two flat tires.
The police report said a woman told authorities she saw a similar car at about 3:40 a.m. the morning Salinas vanished speeding and moving erratically before it crashed into a curb, blowing out two tires. She said she pulled over and attempted to approach the vehicle, but the driver sped off. Pooley said the driver of the damaged car is believed to be Salinas.
Authorities say Salinas called for taxi from her cellphone at about 5:05 a.m. on June 15, but the arriving driver never found her, and her phone was soon turned off.
Pooley said the police are treating this as a homicide and they’re looking for a suspect.
“Nobody is off the table,” Pooley said. “Everything is
being investigated and again now that we have a starting point of somewhere, we have somewhere we can go from.
“Right now there are no persons of interest that we have.”
Searchers will be back in the wash on Friday morning to continue their investigation.
“We’re going to be looking for more evidence, some more clues that will help us determine what happened to Adrienne, how Adrienne got out there and be able to provide some answers to the family,” Pooley said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
KTAR’s Bob McClay contributed to this report.