Body Presumed To Be Missing New Bedford Teen Found In Florida


BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — A body, presumed to be a missing teenager from New Bedford, has been found in a field in Florida, authorities confirmed Friday night.

According to Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn's Office, the deceased body, believed to be that of 18-year-old Jalajhia Finklea of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, was located around noon Friday in a field off Route 95 in Fellsmere, Florida.

DA Quinn said an autopsy will be conducted in Florida to positively identify the remains, and to determine cause and manner of death, which is believed to be homicide.

Police said Finklea was five months pregnant at the time of her disappearance. She was last seen getting into a car near her mother's house in New Bedford on October 20th. Authorities had been searching for her, and the suspected vehicle, ever since.

Investigators learned that the car Finklea entered had recently been rented from Boston's Logan Airport by 37-year-old Luis Zaragoza, who police said had once dated Finklea's aunt. Police also discovered that Finklea's cell phone was last used to call Zaragona shortly before she got into his vehicle, and that the Zaragoza had turned off his own cell phone minutes after Finklea got into his rented car.

During the investigation, police were able to locate Finklea's discarded cell phone on Route 140 in New Bedford, approximately five miles away from where she first entered into Zaragoza's rented vehicle.

Police determined that Zaragoza had left the state and travelled south along the eastern seaboard to Florida, then to Texas before driving back to Florida. Authorities located surveillance footage from places Zaragoza travelled during the course of the two weeks, but none of the surveillance showed Finklea.

As the search for Finklea continued, police in Massachusetts sought and obtained an arrest warrant for Zaragona, charging him with kidnapping and larceny of a motor vehicle. The U.S. Marshal's were able to successfully locate Zaragoza on the night of November 4th in Crestview, Florida, and began surveilling him.

On November 5th, U.S. Marshal's and local sheriff's deputies attempted to arrest Zaragoza at a McDonald's parking lot in Crestview. Zaragoza was armed with a handgun, and he died during a confrontation with police, nearly 500 miles from where the body believed to be Finklea was found.

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(Photo: Getty Images)