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Body May Be Missing Girl's

Crime: It is discovered not far from where her father was found shot to death in his pickup truck, an apparent suicide.

June 06, 2002|CARA MIA DiMASSA and JESSICA GARRISON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The body of a young girl matching the description of a missing Altadena child was found Wednesday not far from where her father apparently committed suicide last week, Butte County authorities said.

The girl's body, which was hidden under a blanket and brush, had a single gunshot wound to the head, according to a news release.

Kim Almodovar, the mother of Jeanene Bonner, 11, who was reported missing May 27, said police told her the body could be her daughter's, but an autopsy will be performed to conclusively identify the remains.

The body of the girl's father, Joaquin "Jack" Garcia, was found in his pickup May 29 along a sparsely traveled road in Butte County, about 100 miles north of Sacramento.

Deputies investigating his apparent suicide said that based on how Garcia's body was found, not all the blood in the passenger seat could have come from his wound.

The father's seat was reclined, and he had a gun in his right hand and appeared to have been dead a few days from a gunshot to the head. The passenger-side door of the vehicle had been locked, police said.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Butte County sheriff's officials and a botanist searched remote Highway 32 looking for plant species that matched material found on the girl's jacket, which was found inside the truck.

There was blood in and on the jacket, officials said, and dried leaves and pine needles inside one of the sleeves.

The botanist and the sheriff had walked only two-tenths of a mile from the truck when they came across the body of a young female resembling the physical description of Jeanene.

Though sheriff's officials had searched the area with a helicopter and a search and rescue team, they did not locate the body because it was covered by the blanket, officials said.

Jeanene is a sixth-grade honors student at Loma Alta Elementary School, and was last seen on May 21, when her father picked her up at school.

"We're at a loss," said Almodovar. "I would never have expected something like this."

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