A California woman and her ex-boyfriend have been found dead after they disappeared the same day that teen Kiely Rodni went missing from
A California woman and her ex-boyfriend have been found dead after they disappeared the same day that teen Kiely Rodni went missing from a campsite, police said.
The bodies of Janette “JJ” Pantoja, 29, and her ex-boyfriend Juan Almanza Zavala, 36, were found Wednesday outside of a vehicle that crashed down an embankment in Nevada County, the sheriff’s department said.
The former couple, who broke up years ago but remained friends, was last heard from on their way home from the Hot August Nights car show in Reno, Nevada.
Pantoja texted her current boyfriend that she would be home in thirty minutes around 11 p.m. on Aug. 6. Shortly after that, her phone stopped sharing its location.
“She just never communicated anything other than that,” sister Alejandra Pantoja said. “She’s not like that.”
An initial search of the area where the duo’s cellphones were last pinged turned up no evidence. Their bodies were eventually discovered when a 911 caller alerted police to a vehicle down an embankment near Highway 20 and Poker Flats Road in Penn Valley. The accident was not visible from the road.
The crash site is about 70 miles from the Prosser Family Campground in Tahoe National Forest, where 16-year-old Kiely Rodni was last seen at a party shortly after midnight on August 6.
Although police said there is no evidence the cases are connected, Pantoja’s sister expressed frustration at the disparity in law enforcement attention to the two cases.
While Rodni’s disappearance sparked at least ten days of extensive searches— including almost 16,000 man-hours by land, air, and boat— Alejandra Pantoja claimed she was struggling to get a call back from police.
“I thought the police were pretty rude,” she told Fox 6 NOW. “I called them…because I wanted to know about my sister, and they were like we can’t keep in contact with you every day.”
“They’ve been telling us they were going to send an aerial search and they haven’t done that,” she continued. “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.”
The disparity between the investigations for the missing Hispanic couple and Rodni, who is white, comes as advocates have called out law enforcement agencies and media outlets for dedicating fewer resources to the disappearances of people of color.
Statistics from the organization Missing NPF show several people of color have disappeared in national parks, but their cases receive scant attention compared to the headline frenzy of Rodni’s case or that of Gabby Petito in 2021.
For the families of the missing or murdered, this disparity only exacerbates the feelings of heartbreak and helplessness.
“How is it that they’re doing a big deal for her but not making a big deal for our family member?” Alejandra Pantoja said. “It’s not okay.”