Investigators said preliminary tests indicate a body found in Robeson County, North Carolina Tuesday is that of a 13-year-old girl who disappeared three weeks ago.
A news release Tuesday said FBI agents and detectives with the Lumberton Police Department found the body around 4:45 p.m. in an area off Wire Grass Road, east of Interstate 95 and south of Lumberton.
Officials said the body found is believed to be that of eighth grader Hania Aguilar, who was kidnapped Nov. 5 from a mobile home park after going outside to start a relative's vehicle to prepare to leave for the school bus stop. Police said a man then forced the teenager into an SUV and drove off.
The SUV was later found in Lumberton several miles from the mobile home park.
The FBI said that the body was removed from the scene by officials and was taken to the state crime lab in Raleigh for identification and an autopsy.
The body was found as the FBI, Lumberton police, the SBI and the Robeson County Sheriff's Office were following leads related to the search for Aguilar, the FBI said.
Aguilar's mother and other family members gathered at the Lumberton Police Department Tuesday night, waiting on developments in the case. Her mother, visibly distraught, was led away in an ambulance. The FBI said that the last three weeks have taken a toll on the family.
Authorities had an extensive perimeter set up and the area was blocked off. A neighbor described the area where investigators were working.
"On one side, it's a wooded area. On the other ... it's a creek with a little house, but on the side (investigators) were on, it's a wooded area," said Anita Hunt. "The little girl that's been missing, that's all that goes through my mind since she's been missing."
The neighborhood has been on constant alert in the three weeks since Aguilar was kidnapped.
"She's 13. She's a baby," Hunt said. "Everywhere I go, I'm looking. You can't help it."
"I'm hoping that it's not her," neighbor Annie Hall added. She said her son played with Aguilar and that she was well known and loved by many in the neighborhood.
Kids haven't been playing outside nearly as much since Aguilar's abduction.
"She used to be in the neighborhood, play with the kids, basketball out in the yard. All the kids would play out in the yard," Hall said. "There was never a problem like this before."
The Public Schools of Robeson County Superintendent Dr. Shanita Wooten released the following statement after the body was found:
"On behalf of PSRC district leaders, administrators, staff and students, we extend our sincerest condolences to Hania’s family, friends, and community. This is a difficult time for our entire district and we are mourning this loss and are still processing this terrible tragedy. We are keeping Hania in our thoughts and will continue to pray for her family and each other as the investigation continues.”
Investigators said they've reviewed more than 800 leads and interviewed more than 400 people in this case. There is still a $30,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
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