Long Beach cold case hits home

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Long Beach cold case hits homeUPDATE: After the News Review went to press, authorities reported that they did not find the remains of Roja. However, widespread media attention has led investigators to new leads to follow up on. Additional information will be reported as it becomes available.

Local law-enforcement agencies are assisting the Long Beach Police Department this week in the search for remains suspected to be those of a woman who went missing in 2000.

On Thursday morning, the perimeter around a plot of desert on the southwest side of town was blocked off while authorities used cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar to locate the remains of Diana Rojas, who disappeared from Long Beach at age 27.

According to a press release from LBPD, Rojas was last seen Friday, Oct. 20, 2000, when she left her daughter in the care of relatives. Family members, who were unable to locate her by the following Sunday, reported her missing. LBPD noted that sources reported that Rojas exhibited uncharacteristic behavior by leaving her daughter and missing an appointment the following day. The suspicious circumstances prompted LBPD to open an investigation, but in the absence of leads, the case went cold.

The case was reopened when an anonymous source reported that Roja’s remains could be found in Ridgecrest.

LBPD reached out to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Ridgecrest Police Department to conduct their search.

Also joining the search are a team of scientists from NecroSearch, a team of multidisciplinary scientists who specialize in helping investigators locate clandestine gravesites and recover evidence.

NecroSearch used satellite images of the targeted area to pinpoint inconsistencies in the topography. Canines trained to locate cadavers more than 10 years old reportedly showed interest in a particular site within the search area.

“We are very fortunate with all of the technological developments we have seen,” said Marlene Arrona, LBPD public information officer on the scene. Those advancements have made it possible to continue the search, she said.

At press time, the search was still under way. Arrona said that additional findings would be reported when they become available.

“We are very grateful for the local law enforcement agencies that came out to assist,” said Arrona.

She also encouraged local residents in that vicinity, who might have witnesses to the scene of an attempt to dispose of Roja’s remains, to contact the LBPD as soon as possible. LBPD Homicide Detectives Mark Bigel and Todd Johnson can be reached at 562-570-7244.

Anonymous tips may also be submitted through “L.A. Crime Stoppers” by calling 800-222-TIPS.

Story First Published: 2016-11-18