LONG BARN, Calif. — One of the two charred bodies discovered in the trunk of a car near here is that of a Eureka woman who disappeared mysteriously with her daughter and a family friend a month ago outside Yosemite National Park, authorities said Monday.
Medical examiners identified the remains of Carole Sund, 42, but were unable to confirm the identity of a second body found in the trunk of the threesome's burned-out rental car, which had been dumped in woods several hundred feet from a busy road.
Authorities suspended the search Monday for a third victim in a mile-square swath of forest along California 108 in Tuolumne County, saying they are confident all the ground has been covered. They did not say where they would search next.
Sund's body, burned beyond recognition, was identified with the help of dental records. But authorities were unable to determine whether the second victim was Sund's 15-year-old daughter, Juliana, or family friend Silvina Pelosso, 16, who was visiting from Argentina.
Sheriff Dick Rogers of Tuolumne County said authorities may have to resort to DNA testing for the second victim, which could take days.
He would not discuss how Sund died.
Authorities said a roll of film that the trio shot during their sightseeing trip had been discovered at the site of the abandoned car. Investigators developed the film, which yielded photographs of the threesome in Yosemite but nothing in Tuolumne County.
FBI Special Agent James M. Maddock said the significance of the film was that "we can't advance the timeline" of confirmed sightings beyond the night of Feb. 15, when the three women were spotted at a restaurant outside Yosemite.
"We don't know for sure how the car came to be up here," Maddock said. "We still don't know where the crime was committed. And we don't know who did it. Otherwise, I assure you, we'd be up here announcing arrests."
Sund's relatives, who have endured more than a month of twists and turns in the case while awaiting a definitive answer on the trio's fate, were devastated again.
"This is the worst nightmare that could ever happen," said Sund's father, Francis Carrington, outside a motel where he is staying in Modesto. "What vile people could do this to three people, I can't imagine. I can't imagine what goes through their mind. It's unbelievable to us."
The Carringtons said their son-in-law, Jens Sund, had been informed of his wife's identification but would remain in Eureka with his three other children, ages 14, 13 and 10.
"Our family is strong and we're going to see this all the way through and we're certainly not going to allow those people to ruin our families," Francis Carrington said.
Silvina's mother Raquel also spoke briefly to reporters. While her daughter's fate remains a mystery, she said she believes the worst.
"I feel that the same happened to my daughter. . . . I feel she's dead right now."
Maddock said investigators have "several good leads" to pursue in the coming days. On Monday, scores of FBI agents and other law officers combed the dense woods where the car was found. The searchers used dogs trained to follow the scent of human remains.
The search for the trio turned grisly last week with the discovery of the two bodies in the trunk of the rented Pontiac Grand Prix, which had been torched and abandoned on a thickly wooded ridge a few hundred feet north of busy California 108.
Authorities said the car was abandoned after it got stuck on a pair of tree stumps along a pine-draped logging road that winds far into the forest.
Authorities said the last confirmed sighting of the trio was Feb. 15 at the Cedar Lodge in El Portal, a rustic enclave outside Yosemite more than two hours by road from the spot where their car was found.
Their disappearance and the extensive search that followed has captured national attention and has been big news in Argentina, where Pelosso's parents own a small bottling plant in the city of Cordoba. Sund's family lives mostly in Eureka and operates the Carrington Co., a successful real estate investment firm.
Relatives of the trio have spent weeks camped out at a motel in Modesto, where a portion of Carol Sund's wallet was discovered a few days after their disappearance, prompting suspicions they had met with foul play.
On Monday, family members held a noon news conference to display some of the photographs the three tourists snapped during their visit to Yosemite. The photos, which include pictures of the girls ice skating and standing in front of scenic Yosemite Falls, were given to the families a day earlier by the FBI.
"I was very happy to see the good time they were having," said Francis Carrington. "And I'm very sad how it ended."
Carole Carrington said she wasn't sure she could bear seeing the pictures, worrying that it might reignite the pain she has already endured. But, she said, it ultimately helped to see the threesome enjoying life in their final hours.