A Hispanic couple from California were found dead Wednesday in a vehicle that appeared to crash into a ridge in Nevada County. The couple, Janette “JJ” Pantoja, 29, and her ex-boyfriend Juan Almanza Zavala, 36, were last heard from on their way home from the “Hot August Nights” car show in Reno, Nevada.
After the couple was unable to return home, Janette Pantoja’s family reported her missing to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department, while Juan Zavala’s family reported him missing to the Yuba City Police Department.
According to authorities, the pair were last seen driving Zavala’s blue 2002 Ford Explorer, license plate 4SNS072, Independent-UK reported
A search around the area where the couple’s phones were last pinged turned up no clue as to their whereabouts. However, their lifeless bodies were eventually found after an 911 caller informed police of a vehicle in a ravine near Highway 20 and Poker Flats Road in Penn Valley.
The location where the bodies were found is about 70 miles from Prosser Family Campground in the Tahoe National Forest, where Kiely Rodni, a 16-year-old who recently disappeared, was last seen at a party after midnight on August 6 .
“I called [the authorities] because I wanted to know about my sister and they said, ‘We can’t keep in touch with you every day.’” Alejandra Pantoja, Janette’s sister, shared her frustration with law enforcement on FOX5 NY.
“They told us they would send out an aerial search, but they didn’t,” Alejandra said, lamenting the police’s slow handling of her sister’s case.
“I just feel like if something happened to them or if he did something to her, they just give [potential suspects] Time to run,” she continued.
According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), over 600,000 people go missing in the United States each year. Of these missing persons, between 89% and 92% are later found either dead or alive.
Data from the Missing NPF organization indicates that scores of black people have disappeared in national parks, but their cases have received little attention compared to the publicity blitz the Rodni case attracted.