The body of a 30-year-old Fresno woman - missing for more than a month and already believed dead - has been recovered.
Missy Hernandez was found at the bottom of the California Aqueduct near Huron on Saturday by a dive team from the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, sheriff Margaret Mims said during an update Tuesday.
The decision to search this specific area of the aqueduct was based on digital evidence found during the month-long investigation and after ground searches had been conducted in multiple areas, including the Highway 180 corridor in western Fresno County.
The aqueduct is on the far west side of Fresno County and was used as "just a hiding place to dump her body," Mims said.
Hernandez was last scene in Fresno on Dec. 7.
Within days, the sheriff's office had classified the disappearance as "suspicious" and was asking the public for help in locating Hernandez, who had lived in Los Angeles and often traveled between there and Fresno.
The case was even featured on Dateline NBC's "Missing in America."
Boyfriend faces murder charges
The sheriff's office released few details on the disappearance until last week, when it announced the arrest of Hernandez's 41-year-old boyfriend Ramon Jimenez.
Even without locating the body, the sheriff's office said it had enough evidence to believe that she had been killed and to arrest Jimenez on suspicion of murder and domestic violence.
According to the sheriff's office, Hernandez was last seen leaving an art show in downtown Fresno with Jimenez, who had a history of domestic violence. In fact, he was arrested on Dec. 8 after a deputy contacted him at the home of Hernandez and recognized him as being wanted for an incident against the woman in October.
Investigators later found an "overwhelming" amount of forensic and digital evidence, including DNA, that led them to believe she had been killed inside her home on Chestnut Avenue, Mims said during Tuesday's news conference.
The recovery of the body won't change the charges against Jimenez, who is currently being held in Fresno County Jail and is not eligible for bail.
It will add "a critical component to help in the prosecution of the case," the District Attorney's Office said at the news conference - which was used a reminder of the prevalence of domestic violence in the area and that those in domestic violence situations should seek help from resources like those available at the Margaree Mason Center.
"This is the worst-case scenario," said Nicole Linder, the center's executive director.
"This is exactly what we tried to prevent as an organization."
The Margaree Mason Center has a confidential hotline at 559-233-HELP.
Help for family of Missy Hernandez
On a GoFundMe page set up by family members, Hernandez is remembered as the mother of an 11-year-old daughter and a "loving, caring, selfless person always giving and always putting others before her own needs."
Being able to have a funeral for Hernandez will give the family much needed closure, according to the page.
"We finally have her back and we can finally lay her to rest," wrote niece Dolly Ayala.