CERES — Authorities on Thursday were trying to identify a body buried in a back yard of a home where a missing girl once lived, a police spokesman said.
Ceres police Sgt. Jose Berber confirmed the single-story house in the 3500 block of Alexis Court in Ceres was the home of Alycia Mesiti when she disappeared in August 2006 at the age of 14.
"(The human remains) may be connected to the missing girl," Berber said. "We're working on that as we speak."
Police are investigating this as a sus- picious death and would not say whether they had identified any suspects.
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"In order to proceed with the investigation we need to identify the body first, so we can exclude those who are not involved," Berber said.
Authorities converged at the home Wednesday morning, a neighbor said, and stayed overnight to unearth the body and gather evidence. The home sits a few blocks south of Sinclear Elementary School, in south Ceres, west of Highway 99.
According to a missing person flier, Alycia took a bag of clothing and her pet Chihuahua when she vanished from her home in August 2006.
"(Alycia) was reported as a runaway," Berber said.
He said investigators entered her information into a missing and unidentified persons database, and the case never went cold.
Detectives recently received information that compelled them to dig in the back yard, police said.
Stanislaus County Chief Deputy Coroner Kristi Ah You said Thursday afternoon they were proceeding with an autopsy to positively identify the body. Coroner officials referred all questions to Ceres police.
Berber said coroner officials were going to use dental records to determine the identity.
"At this point, we do not know the gender," he said.
Officials said a positive ID could be made as early as today.
When asked whether officials found clothes on the body, Berber declined to comment fearing releasing any further information could harm the investigation.
He also declined to comment when asked whether investigators had contacted the missing girl's family or anyone else who might have lived at the home. Berber would not release the names of the missing girl's parents.
The Bee spoke with two members of the girl's family by phone Thursday in Santa Cruz and San Jose, but they declined to comment. Other family members could not be reached.
Sergio Ponce and Mercedes Macias are listed as the owners of the home, according to public records. They bought the house in 2004. Neighbors said the missing girl's family rented the house. Neighbors say it has been vacant since fall.
Ponce and Macias could not be reached for comment.
Berber said police had contacted the homeowners, but he declined to elaborate.
The team of investigators at the Alexis Court home included Ceres police detectives, coroner officials and evidence technicians from the state Department of Justice, Berber said.
Judy Charlton, who lives across the street from the home, said investigators took over the street Wednesday and worked overnight.
"I had CSI (crime scene investigators) parked in front of my place," she said. "It was really freaky last night."
Investigators found the remains buried beneath the lawn just a few feet from a concrete patio, digging a pit about 6 feet by 6 feet, and about 4 feet deep. By noon Thursday, Ceres maintenance workers had filled the hole.
When shown the missing person flier, which includes three photo- graphs of Alycia, Charlton confirmed it was the girl who once lived across the street.
Neighbor says family moved
Charlton, who has lived in her home since 2004, said she frequently saw children playing in the yard and in the driveway when the missing girl lived there.
After the girl's family moved, one of the following renters frequently had lights on in the garage and home, and people coming and going overnight.
"There was lots of activity," Charlton said.
At the time of her disappearance, Alycia would have been a freshman in high school, and her Alexis Court neighborhood is in the Central Valley High School attendance area.
"Our records show the student (Alycia) was registered in our district, but didn't attend school in our district," said Ceres Unified School District Superintendent Walt Hanline.
In September, the Carole Sund/ Carrington Foundation was offering $5,000 for information leading to the missing girl's location. She was reported missing Aug. 16, 2006.
Ceres police had said Alycia and her family moved from San Jose to Ceres shortly before she disappeared, and that the teenager was having trouble adjusting to life in the valley.
On Aug. 11, Alycia returned to San Jose to spend the weekend with a friend, police have said. On Aug. 13, she called her family to say she had gone camping with other friends, but would not tell her parents who they were or where she had gone.
That was the last time anyone heard from her.
Bee staff writer Jeff Jardine contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.