California woman and ex-boyfriend found dead after vanishing around same time as Kiely Rodni

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A California woman and her ex-boyfriend who vanished around the same time and from the same area as missing teenager Kiely Rodni have been found dead.

The bodies of Janette “JJ” Pantoja, 29, and Juan Almanza Zavala, 36, were found outside of a vehicle that had crashed down an embankment in Nevada County on Wednesday afternoon.

Nevada County Sheriff’s Office said that a man called 911 shortly after 5pm on Wednesday to report finding a vehicle that appeared to have crashed in the area of Highway 20 and Poker Flats Road.

Officers responded to the scene where the caller directed them to the vehicle down the embankment. The car was not visible from the highway, the sheriff’s office said.

Outside the vehicle, investigators found the bodies of a man and woman.

The woman was positively identified as Ms Pantoja but, due to the nature of his injuries, Mr Zavala remains only tenatively identified, the sheriff’s office said.

Officials have not confirmed details about the vehicle but previously said that the pair were last seen driving Mr Zavala’s blue 2002 Ford Explorer with licence plate 4SNS072.

A vehicle accident investigation is now being carried out by California Highway Patrol.

The discovery brings a tragic end to the 11-day search for the missing pair, who had not been seen or heard from since the night of 6 August.

Ms Pantoja and Mr Zavala, who had dated for eight years and remained good friends after their split, had gone to the Hot August Nights car show in Reno, Nevada, together that evening.

They then told their family members they were heading home to Yuba City, California, after the event.

Ms Pantoja’s sister Alejandra Pantoja told Fox News Digital earlier in the week that her sister texted her current boyfriend at around 11pm on 6 August to say that she would be home in around 30 minutes.

When she failed to return home, the boyfriend received an alert on his phone that she had stopped sharing her cellphone location data, she said.

Janette Pantoja, 29, and Juan Almanza Zavala, 36, had gone to the Hot August Nights car show in Reno, Nevada, together on the night of 6 August (Nevada County Sheriff’s Office)
Janette Pantoja, 29, and Juan Almanza Zavala, 36, had gone to the Hot August Nights car show in Reno, Nevada, together on the night of 6 August (Nevada County Sheriff’s Office)

On 7 August, Ms Pantoja’s family reported her missing to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department and Mr Zavala’s family reported him missing to the Yuba City Police Department.

Both of their cellphones last pinged in Penn Valley, Nevada County, but a search of the area – including residences – failed to turn up any clues as to their whereabouts.

The pair’s disappearance came almost exactly 24 hours after Kiely Rodni vanished without a trace just 35 miles away over the border of Nevada in Truckee, California.

Kiely, 16, was last seen at around 12.30am on 6 August at the Prosser Family Campground after she had gone to a party of around 200 to 300 teenagers and young adults.

A missing persons case was opened for the teenager on 6 August. She has also not been found and her vehicle – a silver 2013 Honda CRV –  is also missing.

In another bizarre link, Kiely’s mother Lindsey Rodni-Nieman previously told The Independent that her daughter was planning to go to the Hot August Nights car show with her the night that she vanished.

The mother and daughter had spoken about the plans on the morning of 5 August but, during the day, Kiely then texted Ms Rodni-Nieman saying that she had decided to go to the campground party instead.

“Later that day, Kiely then texted saying she was going to go to a party instead of going to the car show. She’d been to the car show already and there was this party in Prosser,” said her mother.

Kiely Rodni with her mother Lindsey Rodni-Nieman (Courtesy of Lindsey Rodni-Nieman)
Kiely Rodni with her mother Lindsey Rodni-Nieman (Courtesy of Lindsey Rodni-Nieman)

“I said ‘yeah that’s fine, of course you can go to the party’.”

Ms Rodni-Nieman said that her daughter had already gone to the car show in Reno earlier that week.

Despite the similarities in the cases, Ms Pantoja’s sister Alejandra questioned why Kiely’s case was receiving much more attention and law enforcement manpower than her sister’s.

“How is it that they’re doing a big deal for her but not making a big deal for our family member? It’s not OK,” she said to Fox, prior to Wednesday’s discovery.

She said that Yuba City investigators told her that they would carry out an aerial search but have so far failed to do so.

“They’ve been telling us they were going to send an aerial search and they haven’t done that,” she said.

“I just feel like if something happened to them, or if he did something to her, they’re just giving [potential suspects] time to run.”

By contrast, both air and dive teams were drafted in to help in the search for Kiely, with more than 300 law enforcement officials joining the search at its peak.

On Monday, investigators announced they were starting to scale back the search for the teen and move to a “more limited” phase.

Anyone with information about Kiely’s disappearance is asked to submit tips online at: sheriff_tahoeinvesttips@placer.ca.gov or call the tip line at (530) 581-6320 option 7