Female body found near Interstate 70 identified as missing Utah woman | VailDaily.com

Female body found near Interstate 70 identified as missing Utah woman

Elise Reuter
ereuter@summitdaily.com

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Summit County Sheriff's Office identified a suspect after a Colorado Department of Transportation employee discovered a body off of Interstate 70 on Sunday.

Summit County Sheriff John Minor said the body was found off of a dirt road near the highway, which is used as a turn-around for snowmobiles.

"Obviously, CDOT goes down there every once in a while," Minor said.

Deputies secured the scene that day, identifying the body as a female, and started an investigation with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Summit County coroner.

An autopsy on Thursday confirmed the woman's identity as 32-year-old Maria Maricela Astorga-Chavez, a woman who was last seen in West Valley City, Utah. Family members said they saw her on Aug. 6, leaving with a man named Javier Huerta, known to use the name Jorge Martinez as well as other aliases. He is a suspect in the homicide investigation.

"We know they were acquaintances, but we don't know anything past that," Roxeanne Vainuku, a public information officer with the West Valley City Police Department, said.

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At a separate location, police located a white Ford Expedition that Huerta drove. The vehicle is secured and will be analyzed for evidence by the West Valley City Police Department; they did not release the location where the vehicle was discovered.

Vainuku added that the department was waiting for autopsy results to determine the manner and cause of death for Astorga-Chavez.

"We have enough evidence at this point to investigate that as a homicide," she said.

Detectives from the West Valley City Police Department located a crime scene in West Valley City where they think Astorga-Chavez died. They believe her body was then transported and left in Colorado.

POLICE SEEKING INFORMATION

"We don't know where (Huerta) is or what vehicle he is driving," Vainuku said. "All we have are some good pictures of his face. We're relying on the public to figure out where he might be."

West Valley City Police will lead the investigation from this point forward. According to police, Huerta is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds. Anyone who has information about the crime or the suspect's whereabouts may contact the West Valley City Police Department at 801-840-4000.