Body Found in Florida Believed to Be Missing Mashpee Teen
A deceased body, presumed to be that of 18-year-old Jalajhia Finklea, was located around noon today in Fellsmere, Florida, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III announced.
As a result of further investigation into the recent disappearance of Ms. Finklea, Massachusetts State Police detectives assigned to District Attorney Quinn's office – working in conjunction with New Bedford Police detectives – developed more information on her potential whereabouts.
That information was shared with the U.S. Marshals and local law enforcement officials in Florida. As a result of that information, Florida law enforcement officials today found a deceased female body in a field off of Route 95 in Fellsmere, Florida.
Although the deceased is presumed to be Ms. Finklea, a positive identification has yet to be made. An autopsy will be conducted in Florida to positively identify the deceased and to determine the cause and manner of death, which is believed to be a homicide.
The 37-year-old Florida man wanted in connection with the disappearance of Ms. Finklea, who was last seen getting into his vehicle in New Bedford, died in Crestview, Florida on November 5 while U.S. Marshals were attempting to take him into custody.
New Bedford Police, working in conjunction with Massachusetts State Police detectives assigned to the Bristol County District Attorney's office, have been investigating the disappearance of Jalajhia Finklea since shortly after she went missing on October 20.
Ms. Finklea was last seen in New Bedford getting into Luis Zaragoza's vehicle, which investigators learned he recently rented from Logan Airport in Boston. Zaragoza is also known to go by the aliases Luis Barbosa or Luis Barboza.
As a result of the ongoing investigation into this matter, police learned Ms. Finklea's cell phone was last used to call the suspect shortly before she got into his vehicle. Further investigation determined that Zaragoza turned off his own cell phone minutes after Ms. Finklea got into his rented vehicle.
During the course of the investigation, police were able to locate Ms. Finklea's discarded cell phone on Route 140 in New Bedford, approximately five miles away from where she first entered into the suspect's vehicle.
Police actively attempted to locate her and the suspect ever since. As a result of those efforts, police determined the suspect had left the state and travelled south along the eastern seaboard to Florida. The suspect then traveled to Texas before driving back to Florida. Police have been able to locate surveillance footage from some of the places the suspect travelled to during the course of two weeks, but none of the surveillance shows Ms. Finklea.
As police here in Massachusetts began to obtain more information about the suspect and his travels, the U.S. Marshals were contacted to assist in the attempt to locate him and Ms. Finklea.
The U.S. Marshals were able to successfully locate the suspect on the night of November 4, and began surveilling him. As the search for Ms. Finklea continued, police here in Massachusetts sought and obtained an arrest warrant for the suspect, charging him with kidnapping and larceny of a motor vehicle.
On November 5, U.S. Marshals and an assisting Okaloosa County Sheriff's deputy attempted to arrest the suspect at a McDonald's parking lot in Crestview, Florida. The suspect, who was armed with a handgun, died during a confrontation with police.
The investigation into the shooting is being conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
— Bristol County District Attorney's Office