By Mary O’KEEFE and Charly SHELTON
The vehicle driven by a local woman who went missing three years ago was found on Sunday. Human remains were also found and are thought to be those of the missing woman; however, it will be some time before the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office will be able to confirm.
On Wednesday, the coroner’s office representatives were once again at the location in the area where the vehicle and human remains were found in the Angeles National Forest. They were looking for more remains, according to Lt. Smith, L.A. County Coroner’s office.
On Sunday night hikers in the Angeles National Forest found what they believed to be a human bone, a vehicle and some identification belonging to Megan DiPiazza (an alumna of foothill schools) in a ravine, said Tahnee Lightfoot, Glendale police spokeswoman.
“[Hikers] Googled Megan’s name [after finding her ID] and discovered she was a missing person and it was an active GPD case,” Lightfoot said.
The hikers contacted California Highway Patrol, which in addition to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. patrols the ANF. The hikers turned over the items found to CHP.
Glendale police detectives responded to the area on Sunday but due to darkness decided it would be better to return the next day to continue the investigation.
On Monday GPD detectives went back to ANF with members of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office and were assisted by Montrose Search and Rescue and LASD. They discovered the vehicle belonging to DiPiazza over the side of a cliff about 500 feet below a turnout off the Angeles Crest Highway.
It was wedged within trees, difficult to see even when found.
The keys were in the [vehicle’s] ignition in the “on” position, Lightfoot added.
“Detectives believe the car and remains have been there since November 2012,” she said.
November 11, 2012 was the last time anyone saw 33-year-old Megan DiPiazza. After an investigation a note from her was discovered “saying goodbye to her family,” GPD stated at the time of the disappearance.
GPD detectives have kept the case open since they were first contacted by the family on Nov. 13. DiPiazza’s personal and vehicle information were entered into the Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit. This was checked on a daily basis by GPD without any positive information received. Detectives were able to submit a phone record for her cellphone but that did not supply any leads either.
Early in the investigation, GPD contacted Montrose Search and Rescue and LASD Air Unit to help with a fly-over of the canyon areas but without positive results.
From November 2012 to just a few days ago, the search for DiPiazza continued with flyers distributed, friends and family members continually keeping DiPiazza’s name in social media and news outlets and searching the area themselves. Members of the MSR had on several occasions hiked trails and canyons in the ANF searching for DiPiazza and her vehicle. LASD, which patrols the ANF, also kept information on her vehicle with them as they patrolled and GPD never stopped checking in with agencies to see if anyone had reported seeing the vehicle or anyone fitting her description.
The vehicle was found hidden within a grouping of trees down a deep ravine. Detectives, coroners and MSR members spent hours at the location on Monday and again on Wednesday as evidence was collected. The vehicle was finally towed out of the ravine late afternoon on Monday. Although detectives believe the remains belong to DiPiazza, the Coroner’s Office has not completed its investigation.
“It all comes down to DNA,” Lt. Smith said. “They will not have the DNA results for a long time.”
This is a difficult time for the family and they have asked those to respect their privacy.