Police believe body of missing teen Jalajhia Finklea found in Florida

Graig Graziosi
·2 min read
The body of an 18-year-old woman presumed to be Jalajhia Finklea, who has been missing since 20 Oct, was found off the side of a highway in Florida. (New Bedford Police Department)
The body of an 18-year-old woman presumed to be Jalajhia Finklea, who has been missing since 20 Oct, was found off the side of a highway in Florida. (New Bedford Police Department)

The body of a teenager who went missing from Massachusetts was found in Florida, according to the Bristol County District Attorney's Office.

The body is presumed to be that of 18-year-old Jalajhia Finklea. Though an autopsy is still pending, the cause of death is believed to be homicide.

Ms Finklea was last seen getting into the car of a man identified as Luis Zaragoza, 37, on 20 Oct in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Mr Zaragoza was killed in a shootout with US Marshals in Crestview, Florida, on 5 November when officers attempted to apprehend him.

"On November 5, U.S. Marshals and an assisting Okaloosa County Sheriff’s deputy attempted to arrest the suspect at a McDonald’s parking lot in Crestview, Florida. The suspect, who was armed with a handgun, died during a confrontation with police," the Bristol District Attorney's Office said in a press release.

Police found MS Finklea's body in a field off the side of Route 95 in Fellsmere on Wednesday.

"Police determined [Zaragoza] had left the state and traveled south along the eastern seaboard to Florida,” the DA’s office said. “The suspect then traveled to Texas before driving back to Florida. Police have been able to locate surveillance footage from some of the places the suspect traveled to during the course of two weeks, but none of the surveillance shows Ms. Finklea.”

On the day Ms Finklea disappeared, she entered Mr Zaragoza's car while wearing light clothes, slippers and while carrying no bags. It did not appear at the time that she had been planning to leave home.

Mr Zaragoza previously had dated Ms Finklea's aunt, according to a police report.

Police found Ms Finklea's cell phone discarded on Route 140 about five miles from Bedford, according to the district attorney.

Ms Finklea was a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. According to police reports, she was five months pregnant when she was last seen.

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