CERES -- Alycia Mesiti was missing for more than two years, and now the teenage girl has been found. But the discovery of her body has only intensified the mystery behind her disappearance.
Alycia's body was found last week buried in the back yard of a Ceres home, where the 14-year-old lived when she went missing in August 2006. Police confirmed Monday that the remains were hers.
Los Angeles police arrested the girl's father and his girlfriend Saturday on unrelated charges. Ceres investigators serving a search warrant at Mark Edward Mesiti's Los Angeles apartment said they found a methamphetamine lab.
No charges have been filed against Mesiti, 41, in connection with his daughter's death, but he is considered a possible suspect, said Sgt. Jose Berber, a Ceres police spokesman.
Mesiti and his girlfriend, Shelly Walker-Welborn, 39, face drug and child endangerment charges. Berber said Walker- Welborn's 12-year-old daughter lived with the couple at the apartment and was taken into protective custody.
KTLA News reported that a Los Angeles County hazardous materials team found at least 17 barrels of precursor chemicals in Mark Mesiti's first-floor apartment. The chemicals included the solvent acetone and red phosphorus, which officials say is used as a catalyst in making meth.
Mesiti and Walker-Welborn were booked Monday night at the LA County Jail. Bail for each was set at $500,000. Berber said the Stanislaus County district attorney's office will decide whether to issue arrest warrants for Mesiti or Walker-Welborn.
"We know that the sheriff's office in LA County will notify us immediately if they start the process of posting bail, and then it will be up to the DA's office," Berber said.
Berber said Alycia's death is considered a homicide, although it could take two months to determine the cause of the teen's death.
The Bee on Monday afternoon contacted a member of Alycia's extended family in Santa Cruz, but he declined to comment. Other attempts to reach family members were not successful.
Berber said investigators have talked to Alycia's mother, who was not living at the Ceres home when the girl disappeared. Berber would not release the mother's name or say where she is.
When Alycia disappeared, Berber said, she was living with her father and Walker-Welborn at the single-story house in the 3500 block of Alexis Court in Ceres. Berber said Monday that Mark Mesiti had custody of Alycia at the time of her disappearance.
Ceres police would not say whether anyone else was living at the home or whether investigators have contacted all the tenants who have lived at the home since Alycia's family moved in. The family left in December 2006, according to the landlords.
The family had moved to Ceres from San Jose, Ceres police have said, and Alycia was having trouble adjusting to life in the valley.
On Aug. 11, 2006, Alycia returned to San Jose to spend the weekend with a friend, her family told police.
On Aug. 13, police were told, she called her family to say she had gone camping with other friends, but would not tell her family who the friends were or where she had gone.
On Monday, Ceres police said Walker-Welborn reported Alycia missing as a runaway Aug. 15. Berber said Walker-Welborn could not elaborate when asked then where Alycia had gone or where she could be found.
Berber said investigators spoke several times with Mark Mesiti after his daughter went missing. He said the father did not provide police any other information.
Investigators said they did not consider Mesiti a possible suspect in the girl's death until authorities found her body last week. Berber would not say why that was.
Police said a tip led them to dig in the home's back yard, but Berber on Monday declined to comment further about the tip.
Wednesday, detectives searched the house with help from the Sacramento County Search and Rescue K-9 Team. A police dog directed the detectives to an area in the back yard. A team of investigators converged at the home, including coroner's officials and evidence technicians from the state Department of Justice, Berber said.
Investigators found the girl's remains buried beneath the lawn just a few feet from a concrete patio, digging a pit about 6 feet by 6 feet wide, and about 4 feet deep.
Police would not say whether there were signs of trauma on the girl's body, how long they believe the body was buried behind the home or who they believe buried the body.
Stanislaus County district attorney's office investigators have urged Ceres police not to release further information about the case, Berber said.
"Investigators are working around the clock, and this case is far from being over," he said. "Additional parties still need to be interviewed that may have been at the location at the time of Alycia's disappearance."
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.