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Panama says skeletal remains found in backpack belong to missing Calif. woman


This undated photo released by Michelle Faust, sister of Yvonne Lee Baldelli, shows Yvonne Lee Baldelli in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Panamanian and U.S. authorities are working to find the missing U.S. tourist, originally from California, who arrived to Panama in Sept. 2011 with her boyfriend Brian Brimager, according to police. (AP Photo/Michelle Faust)

Authorities in Panama say they have positively identified skeletal remains found last week as those of an American woman who vanished there almost two years ago.

Prosecutor Vielka Gisela Broce says DNA testing confirmed that the remains found last week on the island province of Bocas del Toro belong to Yvonne Lee Baldelli, who was last seen there in November 2011.

A Panamanian resident found the remains, including a human skull and bones but not a complete skeleton, in a green “military-style” backpack on the island and turned them over to authorities. Law enforcement told last week the backpack also contained women’s clothing.

In June, U.S. authorities arrested Brian Brimager, a retired Marine and Baldelli's former boyfriend, on charges of obstructing justice in connection with the 42-year-old’s disappearance. 

Prosecutors claim Brimager, of Dana Point, Calif., assaulted Baldelli, also of Dana Point, multiple times shortly after the couple arrived in Panama. The unsealed indictment alleges Brimager began emailing another woman, the mother of his young daughter, about plans to move back to California and help raise their child.

The emails did not mention Baldelli, according to prosecutors. 

Baldelli was living with Brimager at the time of her disappearance. Some 10 days after last being seen with Baldelli, Brimager left the country for Costa Rica and then the U.S., where he is now married and living in California.

Baldelli was reported missing by her family in January 2012 after she failed to show up for a family reunion. 

U.S. prosecutors say that, after killing Baldelli, Brimager traveled to Costa Rica as part of an elaborate ruse to have it appear she left Panama for another man.

Brimager used Baldelli's ATM card in Costa Rica after her disappearance to make it look as though she was still alive, according to prosecutors. They also Brimager conducted an Internet search on Baldelli's laptop with the words: "washing mattress blood stain."

Brimager has denied any involvement in Baldelli's disappearance.'s Cristina Corbin and The Associated Press contributed to this report

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