Two-year-old Arianna Fitts has been missing for nearly a year, but on Friday San Francisco police uncovered a new lead — a car that may be connected to the case.
The missing toddler's mother Nicole Fitts was found dead in John McLaren Park on the morning of April 8. Recreation and Park Department employees found her body buried in a shallow grave near a playground and covered with a plywood board. Police have not released a cause of death.
On Friday, while the FBI examined the newly seized car, Claire Bonnar, a friend of Nicole Fitts took the painful walk down to the spot where her body was discovered. Nicole Fitts was the sister of Bonnar's partner.
“It’s very unsettling to realize just feet from where we are standing, Nicole was found," Bonnar said.
Nicole Fitts was last seen on the night of April 1, when she went to meet someone she knew, and was reported missing by her family on April 5, according to police. Police said they had obtained video showing Nicole Fitts near the area where her body was later found.
The family also alerted police at that time that Nicole Fitts' daughter, Arianna, was missing. Police said Arianna, who sometimes stayed with caregivers for extended periods while her mother worked, was last seen in February.
"I do believe she is alive," Bonnar said of Arianna Fitts.
Bonnar and her family are planning a vigil on Saturday at John McLaren Park to remind the public that Arianna is still missing.
“She can be anywhere in California, in America, she can be across the border," Bonnar said.
The woman also said that she believes the child could be with a former babysitter, Helena Martin, who has been questioned multiples times by police.
Martin's attorney told NBC Bay Area that "she's given them all the information she can."
He added: "Now that they changed from her being a witness to a possible suspect, I’m not going to let her give anymore statements.”
Nicole Fitts was an employee at a Best Buy store on Harrison Street in San Francisco, and the store last year announced a $10,000 reward for information in the case.
Bonnar said the family is in something of a holding pattern, "waiting for that day, waiting for that call for Arianna to be found."
Police have executed search warrants at locations in Oakland, Emeryville and Daly City in an effort to locate Arianna and also followed up on leads in Southern California. Police are also reviewing computer, cell phone and financial records.