A body has been found in an area of North Carolina where authorities have been searching for a teenager who was kidnapped three weeks ago.
The discovery was made in rural Robeson County around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, the FBI said. The location of the body is not far from where 13-year-old Hania Aguilar was taken on Nov. 5.
According to an FBI press release, investigators were “following leads related to the search” when the body was found. It has since been removed from the scene and taken to the state crime lab in Raleigh. An autopsy is set to determine its identity and cause of death.
“There is no time frame for when a positive identification will be made,” the FBI said.
Although the body has yet to be identified, Hania’s family was notified out of an “abundance of caution,” the FBI said.
The teen’s mother, Elsa Hernández, went to the Lumberton Police Department late Tuesday to speak with detectives. She was visibly distraught and left in an ambulance, The Associated Press reported.
According to WPDE-TV, Dr. Shanita Wooten, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, released a statement Tuesday evening about the “potentially tragic conclusion” to the search for Hania:
The body is believed to be Hania, but the identity has not yet been confirmed. This is an unfortunate end to an extensive search and we are committed to supporting all students and staff as they cope with the heartbreaking tragedy.
Hania, an eighth-grade student at Lumberton Junior High School, was last seen outside her Lumberton home just before 7 a.m. on Nov. 5. She was waiting for a ride to school, standing near a relative’s SUV, when a witness heard a scream and saw someone force the girl into the vehicle and drive off, police said.
The stolen green Ford Expedition was found abandoned on Nov. 8, less than 10 miles from the mobile home park. Authorities said evidence recovered from the vehicle was sent to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, but they won’t discuss what was found.
The only real clue police have revealed in Hania’s disappearance is a surveillance video of an unidentified individual, believed to be a man, walking toward the girl’s residence prior to her disappearance. Police said the person in the footage is not considered a suspect or a person of interest at this time but rather someone they “want to speak with.”
Authorities have been offering a $30,000 reward for information that leads to Hania or the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for kidnapping her.
“Please continue to pray for Hania, her family, and each other as the investigation continues to find out who kidnapped Hania and hold them responsible,” the FBI said Tuesday.
The Lumberton Police Department is asking anyone with information to call 910-272-5871.