UPDATE: Skeletal remains identified as those of Elizabeth Salgado

May 23, 2018, 10:03 PM | Updated: May 24, 2018, 9:10 pm

PROVO, Utah – A missing persons case in Provo is now considered a homicide, after skeletal remains were found on Friday and positively identified Wednesday by the state medical examiner as belonging to Elizabeth Elena Laguna Salgado, according to sources within the Provo Police Department and Utah County Sheriff’s Office.

The 26-year-old woman disappeared in Provo on April 16, 2015, prompting a widespread three-year effort to find her. Despite an ongoing investigation by Provo police and many volunteer searches, Salgado’s case had turned cold until Friday.

Related: Key events in search for Elizabeth Salgado

A driver told police he found Elizabeth Salgado’s remains after pulling off the roadway in Hobble Creek Canyon.

Officials said the remains were found by a man who was driving in Hobble Creek Canyon. He told police he pulled over and went into the bushes to have some privacy while using the bathroom. He stumbled upon the skeletal remains and contacted the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators from the Utah County Sheriff’s Office and the Provo Police Department spent time at the scene on Friday and Saturday, collecting the remains, which were turned over to the state medical examiner for identification. The remains were confirmed as Salgado’s Wednesday through dental records by a forensic odontologist. While investigators said a cause of death was so far unclear, the fact Salgado’s remains were found in a remote area, has them now focusing on homicide.

Related: Family, friends reflect on missing Provo woman 3 years after her disappearance

Salgado, a native of Mexico, had arrived to Provo just three weeks before she disappeared. A recently returned missionary for the LDS Church, Salgado was beginning to take English classes at a private school on Provo’s Center Street. She vanished after leaving the school on the afternoon of April 16, 2015.

Related: ‘We need your help’: Family of woman who vanished in Provo pleads for information

Police have not named a suspect or a person of interest in the case. Early on in the investigation, police said inconsistencies and the outcome of polygraph tests with two of Salgado’s uncles resulted in them being excluded from police updates to the family.

In April, family members and police held a press conference hoping to renew interest and find new leads in the cold case on the three-year anniversary of Elizabeth’s disappearance. Salgado’s uncle at the time again pleaded for help from the public.

The skeletal remains of Elizabeth Salgado were found in Hobble Creek Canyon on Friday, May 18, 2018. The native of Mexico and recently-returned LDS missionary had only been in Provo for three weeks when she disappeared.

“I am shocked that this happened to my niece, because as far as I know, Provo, Utah – it is a safe place and for my niece to come and disappear, I am surprised that this happened to her. It has been very devastating,” said Rosemberg Salgado.

Authorities notified Salgado’s family members in California and Mexico Wednesday evening that her remains have been found. Provo police and the Utah County’s Sheriff’s Office will hold a joint press conference Thursday at 10 a.m. to provide more specifics about the Salgado case, now that her remains have been positively identified.

It’s been three years since Elizabeth Salgado disappeared from Provo. Here is a timeline of her story.

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UPDATE: Skeletal remains identified as those of Elizabeth Salgado