By Cheri Mossburg, CNN
A Fresno County, California, woman last seen more than two months ago was found dead inside her crashed car at the bottom of a cliff in the Sierra Nevada foothills, officials said.
Jolissa Fuentes, 22, was at a family gathering on August 6 when she drove home in the overnight hours to get some belongings, police said at the time. Her family reported her missing the next night, and police later said they were treating it as a criminal matter.
Selma Police Chief Rudy Alcaraz led the investigation into Fuentes’ disappearance and personally found the crash site.
“I just got lucky in finding the location where her car went off the road,” Alcaraz said in a news conference Tuesday. After stopping his patrol car near a curve in the road, he saw tire tracks in the dry brush, he said.
“As a woman of faith, I believe he was divinely channeled to that area,” said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.
After Alcaraz discovered the tire tracks, drones were used to follow the likely path of the vehicle.
Once the car was located, law enforcement officials used 475 feet of rope to rappel down the 250-foot cliff to a landing, and then down a second cliff to recover her body, Sheriff Mims said, adding that the area was so steep and thick with vegetation that law enforcement lost track of the rappelers.
The crash site, near Pine Flat Lake, is in the heavily wooded mountains between Fresno and Kings Canyon National Park.
Joey Fuentes, Jolissa’s father, broke down thanking law enforcement and volunteers who helped in the search over the past two months, especially Chief Alcaraz, who early in the investigation promised to find his daughter.
“He’s my hero,” gushed Fuentes.
The two men embraced following Fuentes’ comments, with the police chief heard whispering over and over: “I’m so sorry.”
Foul play is not suspected, Chief Alcaraz said, surmising that Fuentes was likely tired and fell asleep at the wheel. The California Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.
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