On Wednesday, a body was found in Florida that authorities believe to be of the missing 18-year-old teen Jalajhia Finklea of Massachusetts.
The Bristol District Attorney’s Office announced that the body was found around noon in a field off Interstate 95 in Fellsmere, Florida. Police say that an autopsy will be conducted in Florida to positively identify the body and to determine the cause and manner of death, which is believed to be a homicide.
According to police records obtained by the NBC10 Boston Investigators, the Massachusetts teen was 5 months pregnant at the time of her disappearance.
Finklea was last seen on Oct. 20 getting into a rental car driven by a Florida man near her mother’s New Bedford home.
Law enforcement agencies were able to track the car through several states, where they found and killed 37-year-old Luis Zaragoza in a shootout in a Florida Mcdonald’s parking lot.
The Cape Cod Times reported that the 17-year-old (she turned 18 the day after her disappearance) underwent a medical procedure in Boston on the day she vanished. According to police, she was due to return to Boston the following day for another appointment.
Finklea’s mother told police she last saw Finklea when she left to fill a prescription around 4:50 p.m. When she returned to her apartment in New Bedford, Finklea was gone. Surveillance video showed Finklea left wearing light clothing and slippers. She was seen getting into the front passenger’s seat of a 2020 Hyundai Elantra that had been rented from Logan Airport and was due to be returned the next day.
According to the police report, Finklea remained in the car for about 20 minutes before it drove off. Her phone was later found discarded on Route 140, about five miles from where she got into the vehicle.
Finklea, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, was attending classes at Barnstable High School. There was no indication that she had ever planned to leave home, nor did she take any belongings.
The Bristol County prosecutors released surveillance footage that showed some of the places he traveled, but Finklea was not seen in the footage. Investigators determined that Zaragoza, also known as Luis Barboza, had driven the rental car to Florida, then Texas, then back to Florida.
The New Bedford police filed charges of kidnapping and motor vehicle larceny against Barboza, on Nov. 5, police obtained a warrant for his arrest. Detectives were on their way to Florida to arrest him on the kidnapping and vehicle theft charges when he was killed in an apparent shootout outside a McDonald’s in Crestview.
The Oskaloosa County Sheriff’s Office in Florida said that a deputy was assisting U.S. Marshals in taking Zaragoza into custody at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 9.
The Cape Cod Times had reported that before her disappearance, Finklea texted a friend and told them she was meeting up with a man named Luis Barboza.