A 16-year-old Cypress girl whose body was found near a flood control channel in Lakewood died by strangulation, according to preliminary autopsy results released Thursday by the Los Angeles County coroner's office.
The fully clothed body of Zuleima Valdez, a freshman at Cypress High School, was found about 5:45 p.m. Monday by two teen-agers riding bicycles near the Coyote Creek flood control channel, not far from the mobile home the victim shared with her mother.
"The cause of death has been established as strangulation, and it is a homicide," Bob Dambacher, a spokesman for the coroner's office, said.
Dambacher said he could not comment on the time of death or if any type of implement was used in the strangulation. He said routine toxicological tests will be conducted to determine if Valdez was given any substances, such as drugs, before she was killed.
Results of Thursday's autopsy will be turned over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department crime lab.
Sheriff's Department detectives previously had said the body, which showed no obvious signs of trauma, was partially covered with pine needles, leading them to suspect someone may have tried to hide it.
Valdez left home Sunday night, telling her mother she was going to the beach with friends. When she failed to return, the mother reported her missing to police.