SAN DIEGO — Authorities believe that Amanda Leigh Gaeke--whose nude and decomposed body was found Monday in a brushy canyon near her home--is the third 9-year-old girl to be abducted here in the last four months.
Two of the girls were killed and the third is missing.
But despite the similarities--each child was a 9-year-old fourth-grader--investigators do not believe the cases are related.
"At this time there are no real glaring similarities, aside from the same age. All of the disappearances occurred in areas that are far separated from each other," said San Diego Police Lt. Paul Ybarrondo.
However, Ybarrondo emphasized that the investigation of Amanda's death is just getting started and added that homicide investigators are not discounting anything.
San Diego police investigators plan to meet with Chula Vista homicide detectives to compare notes on the killings of Amanda and Laura Arroyo, who disappeared June 19 after she ran down the stairs of her family's San Ysidro condominium to answer a nighttime knock at the front door. Her body was found the next morning, barefoot and still dressed for bed, on the sidewalk of a Chula Vista industrial complex.
Police said Laura was beaten and stabbed. There have been no arrests in the case and Chula Vista detectives said the investigation is continuing. Investigators have declined to say whether she was molested.
Still missing is Rasheeyda Wilson, who disappeared July 15, a block from her home on F Street in downtown San Diego. San Diego police said tipsters have told investigators that Rasheeyda might be in Mexico, but added that there are no suspects in the case.
While police say they have no evidence linking the cases, some counselors say the disappearances have made many San Diego parents anxious.
"It's almost like losing a sense of being secure, and having it brought into focus that bad things really do happen to children and bad things really do happen to adults," said Barbara Ryan, a social worker at Children's Hospital.
Investigators at the county medical examiner's office said Tuesday that an autopsy into Amanda's death was pending.
Meanwhile, counselors from the San Diego Unified School District's crisis intervention team continued to help those shaken by the girl's death.
At Wegeforth Elementary School in Linda Vista, where Amanda was remembered as a popular student, children, parents and teachers wept openly on playgrounds and in staff rooms at the news that the missing girl had been found dead.
Children wrote goodby letters to their departed friend and acted out her "rescue" with puppets, said Leah Edzant, one of the crisis counselors who spent the day handling the trauma of the youngster's death.
"Dear Amanda, I'm so sorry that you're gone," one child wrote. "I'm also sorry for being mean to you right before you left. You're nice. (We're) going to miss you very much."
Police said Amanda disappeared Oct. 3 after she arrived home from school. A classmate told police that she saw Amanda sitting in a pickup truck with a Latino man after a school open house. The man was described as having a ponytail and wearing sunglasses.