A 13-year-old girl was found dead in Mission Viejo on Monday less than 24 hours after she went missing, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Emma Pangelinan’s body was located by a hiker around noon amid heavy brush near Pinecrest Park, located at 21310 Pinecrest, the department confirmed Monday evening.
It was not immediately known how she died, but the Sheriff’s Department indicated the girl’s death did not appear suspicious. The Orange County coroner’s office will conduct an autopsy as part of the investigation.
“The concern we had was that she’s 13 years old, last night was very cold, and we take any reports of missing children very seriously,” said sheriff’s Lt. Quyen Vuong.
Prior to Pangelinan being found deceased, Carrie Braun of the Sheriff’s Department told KTLA that they believed the teen was a runaway.
The department did not release any other details about the ongoing investigation.
Friends and classmates brought flowers and lit candles at Pinecrest Park on Monday night to honor the well-known athlete, who was remembered for her personality, kindness and sense of humor.
“I’m just going to miss her smile and just how much … of an amazing person she was” said friend Gianna Lopez. “I just remember always hanging out with her in class, always … cracking jokes with her at lunch, just having good times with each other.”
Added Mia Nin, another friend: “She was a really nice classmate and she was great to be around.”
Pangelinan played softball for a team called the Batbusters Shockey, which posted about the then-missing girl early Monday as they sought to locate her. In about 20 hours, the post was shared 20,000 times.