Investigators have said that it is “more than likely” that the human remains found in a lake in Truckee belong to missing teenager Kiely Rodni.
Authorities said at a press conference on Monday morning that officials were still unable to confirm the identity of the body found inside a vehicle in Prosser Creek Reservoir in Truckee, California but believe that it is that of the 16-year-old.
“We recovered the vehicle last night. We believe it is our missing person,” Nevada County Sheriff Shannon Moon said.
“We have not been able to positively identify [her], but it is more than likely where we are right now.”
An autopsy will take place on Tuesday to determine the cause of death. The investigation will also continue into how the vehicle ended up in the water, officials said.
On Sunday, a volunteer dive crew announced that it had found a body and an overturned car in the reservoir – bringing a tragic end to a huge two-week search for the missing teen.
Adventures With Purpose (AWP), a volunteer search organisation which helps find missing people, said that the silver 2013 Honda CRV was upside down 14 feet underwater and that a body was inside.
At Monday’s press conference, investigators confirmed that the vehicle is the teen’s Honda with Californian license plate number 8YUR127.
Officials were also questioned about how a volunteer dive team was able to locate the missing vehicle and car within the space of a few short hours in the same lake that law enforcement had been searching – unsuccessfully – for two weeks.
Captain Sam Brown of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office explained that “it takes a level of expertise” to find something in a vast body of water.
He dismissed claims from a diver with AWP that they were told that the lake had already been searched extensively, saying that law enforcement officials “shared maps, ping information and location” with the volunteer organisation.
At a press conference on Monday morning, AWP revealed that the dive team had located the missing car within 35 minutes of searching the vast reservoir.
“We began our search for Kiely on August 21 at 10:40am … By 11.15am, Nick [Rinn] detected an object underwater using cutting-edge garment solar technology,” diver Doug Bishop said.
Mr Bishop said that Kiely’s grandfather and father were on the scene within minutes. Law enforcement officials are yet to make an official identification of the body.
The organisation said that the vehicle – which matches the make and model of Kiely’s – has the teen’s Californian license plate number 8YUR127 and that the remains are believed to be those of the missing 16-year-old.
Nick Rinn, an AWP diver, told the New York Post he found a body in a car within minutes of entering the water, and while it was close to the shoreline, it had not been visible above the water – only via sonar.
“I went down and did my inspection. I saw the vehicle upside down, verified the license plate and that there were remains in the vehicle,” he said.
“Then I came out, we called the family and authorities and let them take it from there.”
Placer County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Sunday that it had been notified by AWP about the discovery of a car and body in the reservoir.
“The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, FBI and allied agencies are at the scene to investigate the findings. The identity of the decedent has not been confirmed. This is a developing situation, and we will provide updates when we can,” the agency said.
Kiely Rodni with her mother Lindsey Rodni-Nieman
(Courtesy of Lindsey Rodni-Nieman)
Kiely’s family said in a statement that they were waiting for clarification before addressing the “rumours” about the tragic discovery.
The Prosser Creek Reservoir had previously been searched extensively by law enforcement who had spent more than 20,000 hours trying to find the missing teen.
The 16-year-old vanished without a trace in the early hours of 6 August after going to the Prosser Family Campground in Truckee for a party of 200 to 300 teenagers and young adults.
She was last seen at around 12.30am at the site – a hotspot for local teen gatherings – and her cellphone last pinged at 12.33am close to Prosser Creek Reservoir. Her car had also not been seen since.
The teenager’s mother Lindsey Rodni-Nieman previously told The Independent that her daughter sent her a final text message at 11.30pm saying that she would be leaving the party in around 45 minutes. The drive home takes around 25 to 30 minutes.
Kiely’s friend Samantha Smith told The Independent that she last spoke to Kiely on the phone at around 12.30am.
She had been planning to get a ride home from the party with Kiely but there was a change in plans because she said Kiely had been drinking and so was not in a position to drive. Instead, the two friends told each other “love you, good night, get home safe,” she said.
Kiely’s ex-boyfriend, Jagger Westfall, paid tribute to her in a heartbreaking video on his Instagram on Sunday night, showing the young couple joking around together.
“You were my entire world and you always will be. I will never love someone the way I loved you,” the 18-year-old wrote.
“I missed you even when I was holding you in my arms. I could never get enough of you. I promised I would be with you until the end and I was serious. #LLK🕊.”
Mr Westfall, who had remained close to Kiely and her family after they stopped dating, said that he texted her telling her to “be safe” and “don’t do anything stupid” on the night of the party.
“And so I was just like, OK. Be safe. Don’t like, do anything stupid,” he told KTXL.
Mr Westfall also confided in Kiely about his day, receiving a final message from her at around 10.30pm where she empathised with what he had gone through.
“Then at 10.30, she responded to what I was saying, and just said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry that you’re going through that’,” he said. “And that was the last time I heard from her.”
A missing person report was filed later on the morning of 6 August when Kiely failed to return home. She had plans to meet friends to go hiking at 9am on Saturday but did not arrive.
Hundreds of law enforcement personnel from multiple agencies were drafted in to find the missing teen, carrying out searches on the ground, in the air and dive teams in the reservoir.
Kiely Rodni’s ex-boyfriend posted a tribute to the teen after a body was found
(Jagger Westfall Instagram)
But, their search failed to turn up anything.
Officials admitted that the search of the lake was challenging because it has a depth of up to 57 feet and poor visibility, meaning dive teams were “going into the water blind”.
Last week, law enforcement officials announced that they were scaling back the search for the missing teen and just seven personnel were assigned to the case on Sunday.
AWP travelled to join the search on Friday, before launching its own search in the lake on Sunday.
Diver Josh Cantu told the New York Post that law enforcement had reassured the team that the body of water had already been searched thoroughly.
“Police told us they did a rigorous search of this body of water. They gave us a grid map and made us confident we didn’t need to search here,” he said.
But, after just a few minutes of searching, the volunteer search team found the body inside the car – first using sonar and then to the human eye after crews dived down.
Harrowing footage captured by KRCA3 showed the vehicle containing a body believed to be that of missing teenager being dragged from the reservoir on Sunday night.
The car was covered in a sheet and taken away by law enforcement.