The decomposed body of a female was found in Salinas near where the abandoned car of a 35-year-old woman missing since Thanksgiving Day had been parked, a Salinas police spokesman said Wednesday.
A Salinas city cleaning crew reported coming across something suspicious while working last Saturday morning near Garner Avenue in Natividad Creek Park, Salinas police Officer Miguel Cabrera said.
Police later confirmed the crew had found badly decomposed human remains that the Monterey County coroner's office this week determined was of a woman but could not identify her, Cabrera said.
Authorities extracted a DNA sample from the body and sent it for examination to a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice in hopes of finding a match, Cabrera said.
The remains were discovered in the vicinity of where an unlocked car owned by Leticia Morales-Soto (pictured), of Salinas, was located at the end of Garner Avenue next to Natividad Creek Park, Cabrera said.
Police suspected the remains might be those of Morales-Soto and so contacted her family members before releasing details about it to the public, Cabrera said.
There is no timetable for the results of the DNA test, however "we're trying to expedite the process," Cabrera said.
Morales-Soto's husband reported her missing at 3 p.m. on Nov. 23, a day after a family member last saw her driving away to pick up an acquaintance, 37-year-old Rafael "Rafa" Carballo, Cabrera said.
On Thanksgiving Day, the day she was last seen, Morales-Soto had been cooking the holiday dinner and decided to drive to store with her uncle to do some shopping when Carballo called her cellphone and asked for a ride, police said.
She agreed, then dropped her uncle off and apparently drove to meet Carballo but her family members never saw her again, police said.
The day after Thanksgiving, Carballo and members of his family went to the Salinas Police Department at 1 p.m. to report that Carballo had been assaulted at Natividad Creek Park the previous night.
Carballo, known to some as "Rafa," had injuries consistent with being in some kind of struggle and an officer filed a battery report, policesaid.
After Morales-Soto's husband found her car later that afternoon, police arranged for the car to be towed and accompanied her husband to "Rafa's" home to talk to him, police said.
Carballo was not at the residence, but one of the officers recognized some of his family members from the battery report that afternoon and identified "Rafa" as Carballo, police said.
Salinas police and the Monterey County sheriff's office searched Natividad Creek Park on Nov. 24 and Nov. 27 but were unable to find any leads.
In early December, police issued a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of murder and he is still the primary suspect in the woman's disappearance, Cabrera said.
Police believe Carballo may have fled to Mexico, Cabrera said.
Salinas police are asking anyone who may have seen Morales-Soto to contact the Investigations Division at 831-758-7226.
Anyone who knows where Carballo may be is urged to call the department at 831-758-7321.