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Pregnant Mass. Teen, Missing Since October, Believed to Be Found Dead in Florida

Georgia Slater
·2-min read

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Authorities in Florida have discovered a body which they presume to be a Massachusetts teen who went missing in October, the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office announced this week.

Florida law enforcement officials located the body of a deceased woman on Wednesday in a field off of Route 95 in Fellsmere, according to a press release.

Though a positive identification has yet to be made, authorities believe the body is that of 18-year-old Jalajhia Finklea, who went missing on Oct. 20.

An autopsy will be conducted in Florida to identify the woman and determine her cause and manner of death, which is believed to be homicide, according to the press release from the District Attorney's office.

RELATED: Mass. Teen Who Vanished Last Month Is Still Missing — and Accused Kidnapper Was Killed by Police

Finklea, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, was last seen getting into the car of 37-year-old Luis Zaragoza last month.

According to a police report obtained by the Cape Cod Times, Finklea was pregnant at the time of her disappearance.

The District Attorney's office alleges that Finklea’s cell phone was last used to call Zaragoza. Minutes after she got into his rented vehicle, her cell phone was turned off.

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"During the course of the investigation, police were able to locate Ms. Finklea’s discarded cell phone, approximately five miles away from where she first entered into the suspect’s vehicle. Police have been actively attempting to locate her and the suspect ever since," the district attorney said in a statement earlier this month.

RELATED: Illinois Woman, 20, Vanished Monday Morning After Dropping Younger Sister Off at School

According to CBS Boston, police had been trying to locate Zaragoza, who also goes by the name of Luis Barbosa. He was the sole person of interest in Finklea's disappearance.

Massachusetts police contacted the U.S. Marshals to help find Zaragoza and Finklea. Authorities tracked Zaragoza to Texas and then to Florida. Surveillance video in both states showed Zaragoza, but there was no sign of Finklea.

Authorities tracked Zaragoza to Crestview, Florida, a small town approximately 50 miles east of Pensacola. When the U.S. Marshals Service Task Force attempted to arrest Zaragoza on November 5, they say he fired a gun at them. Officers returned fire, killing Zaragoza at the scene.

At the time of the shooting, New Bedford Police were en route to Florida to arrest Zaragoza on kidnapping and larceny charges.