POMONA, Calif. – A woman reported missing for several days was found stabbed to death in a minivan by family members who were called by police to pick up the vehicle because it was illegally parked near a California courthouse, according to reports.
Relatives found the body of Eileen Orta, 22, on Friday, three days after filing a missing person's report on her, Lt. Ron McDonald said.
Tracy Ponce, the victim's mother, discovered her daughter under a pile of blankets in the minivan parked near Pomona Superior Court, MyFOXLA.com reports.
"I pulled one blanket and that's when I saw my daughter's leg. I saw her leg and her toes," Ponce told MyFOXLA.com. "I said 'Oh my God.'"
The report gave a full description of Orta and the van, and was entered into a national law enforcement database, he said.
When the van was found parked in a space reserved for a police official near the courthouse, police notified Orta's family to pick it up before it was impounded.
"There's no way the officer could have known her body was in there," Pomona Police Chief Joe Romeo told MyFOXLA.com.
Romeo said that officers didn't have the right to search the vehicle or break the windows to get in, but Ponce said the windows were rolled down when she arrived to pick up the vehicle, MyFOXLA.com reports.
Orta was pronounced dead at the scene, and an autopsy determined she died of a stab wound to the neck, said Los Angeles County Coroner Lt. Cheryl MacWillie.
Her death was under investigation, police said.
"I know the detectives are working hard on the case, but someone screwed up," Ponce told KABC-TV.
"When they found the car ... they knew it was a missing person's car," Ponce said. "They did not search it. My daughter could have been alive. What if she was still alive at that time, just dying or needing care?"
Officers often don't force their way into abandoned vehicles, police Sgt. Horace Blehr said.
"In hindsight, we're pretty ready to admit we could have gone over [the van] better," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.