By Allison Jarrell
The body of Erica Alonso, 28, of Laguna Hills, who had been missing since Feb. 15, was discovered late Monday night about a mile east of Ortega Highway in the Cleveland National Forest, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials. The sheriff’s department confirmed Alonso’s identity Thursday morning through fingerprint comparisons.
Alonso went missing around 4 a.m. the morning of Sunday, Feb. 15, after leaving her boyfriend’s house near Culver Drive and Deerfield Avenue in Irvine. Her 2014 Honda Civic was found in Aliso Viejo on March 25, approximately one mile from her home.
According to sheriff’s department officials, Alonso’s family had remained hopeful and actively supported the investigators’ efforts to distribute information about the missing person case. The family spent several weeks in April raising enough money to offer a $5,000 reward for information regarding Alonso’s whereabouts.
On Monday night, a decomposed body was discovered by a group of biologists working for Caltrans around 10 p.m. near the crossroads of Ortega Highway and Hot Springs Canyon Road—north of San Juan Capistrano in the Cleveland National Forest, according to Lt. Jeff Hallock of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Due to the rugged terrain and reduced visibility, Hallock said the sheriff’s department established a crime scene overnight and began investigating Tuesday morning with homicide and coroner investigators.
Alonso’s body was recovered around 11 a.m. Tuesday and was transported to the coroner division. A statement from the sheriff’s department, released shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, preliminarily identified the remains as Alonso. Following Wednesday’s autopsy and examination of the body, sheriff’s department officials said the cause of death was “undetermined,” with no obvious physical signs of trauma. Investigators will continue to process evidence collected at the scene, as well as evidence obtained through the coroner’s examination.
Fingerprints were collected during the autopsy and were matched with Cal-ID records to officially confirm Alonso’s identity Thursday morning.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Unit at 714.647.7055 or 714.647.7000. Anonymous tips may also be submitted to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855.TIP.OCCS (855.847.6227) or at www.occrimestoppers.org.