Pennsylvania police seek remains of girl who disappeared in Florida 30 years ago

Jennifer Marteliz

Jennifer Marteliz  (NCMEC/myfoxtampa)

State police in southwestern Pennsylvania were searching for the skeletal remains of 7-year-old girl last seen walking to school in Florida nearly 30 years ago.

After a tip from a former neighbor, police have obtained search warrants for six properties linked to a since-deceased Pennsylvania man who also had a home in Tampa when Jennifer Marteliz was last seen on Nov. 15, 1982, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Thursday.

The man died in 1992 and other people now own the properties, according to the newspaper's account of the warrants, which The Associated Press couldn't immediately obtain.

State police from the Uniontown barracks, about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh, confirmed to the AP that they're involved in the search but didn't immediately provide details. Calls to Fayette County District Attorney Jack Heneks weren't immediately returned.

The former neighbor, who was 10 when Jennifer was last seen, recently told police that she had seen the man remove a large plastic bag from his car at his home in North Union Township, Fayette County, the newspaper reported. She has offered to lead police to a spot on his property where she saw a knee-deep hole dug in the woods around the time Jennifer went missing and where she believes the bag might have been buried, according to the search warrants.

Police actively searched that site and others Thursday afternoon. The man hasn't been charged in the girl's disappearance and has no history of arrests or convictions in Pennsylvania.

Jennifer's sister, Toni Lisa Marteli, told the AP on Thursday that the family was just becoming aware of the most recent developments. Marteli said she created in hopes of generating leads in the case.

The family was being bombarded with calls and emails from media and law enforcement, but Marteli said she and her mother, Katherine Longo, have yet to learn all that police have set forth in the search warrants.

Marteli was 11 when her sister was last seen and said she believes her mother might have recently been contacted by the same woman who has provided the information that police have used to obtain the warrants. Marteli said she doesn't know how the woman learned of her sister's plight or why she recently decided to contact police with that information.

The warrants indicate that the woman told police that the man once had a second home about five blocks from where Jennifer lived and that the woman knew the man had driven to and from Florida in a brown car. The woman also told police she once saw a photo of a missing girl and a related newspaper article in the man's house.