A farmworker found her body this week wrapped in a rug in a ditch beside an onion field east of Palmdale. Stevona Campbell, 13, had been missing since Sunday night.
Known to her family as "Teeny" for her small size at birth, she had attended a large Mother's Day party at her family's apartment in east Palmdale. But she darted out of the apartment about 7 p.m. -- disobeying her mother's orders to stay home -- and never returned, family members said.
Los Angeles County sheriff's homicide detectives, who declined to comment on the cause of death, have made no arrests in the case.
"She was a nice little girl," neighbor Janice Powell said. "She had a lot of friends."
Stevona and her mother moved from Compton two years ago to escape the gangs and crime. Several relatives also moved to Palmdale for the same reason.
"I was scared," said Stevona's cousin, Lacreasia Chambers, who moved from Lynwood with her sons seven years ago. "Every time I turned around a family member was getting killed."
Stevona's body was found Monday morning in a ditch across a two-lane road from a stretch of cactus and brush, about a mile from a shopping center under construction.
The Los Angeles County coroner determined that she had been killed, said Sheriff's Lt. David Coleman of the Homicide Bureau.
Little else is known about what happened to Stevona, a popular girl at Cactus Middle School in east Palmdale. The school brought in grief counselors this week to talk to students about her death.
"She was full of energy, a regular 13-year-old . . . the center of attention," Chambers said. "She didn't deserve this."
Anyone with information about her death is asked to call sheriff's detectives at (323) 890-5500.