A 9-year-old girl whose disappearance gripped China was found dead in the East China Sea after a wide-sweeping and extended search.
Zhejiang Provincial Police reported that although the girl's body showed no signs of violence, her death could not be considered an accident.
Zhang Zixin, a bespectacled second-grader with a ponytail, was last seen on July 7 in the company of two adults found dead later that day; local officials stated the two adults drowned themselves in a nearby lake.
Her disappearance ensued a week-long search that involved speedboats and sonar equipment until Xiangshan County police announced on Sunday her body had been discovered.
Zixin was taken by the adults, a couple from the southern province of Guangdong who had been renting rooms in the house where she lived with her grandparents. Her father, Zhang Jun, was working in a northern Chinese city hundreds of miles away at the time and stated the couple deceived Zixin’s senile farmer grandparents into letting them take her away.
Zhang recalled how the tenants claimed to want to make Zixin a flower girl at a wedding in Shanghai and despite his objections, led the girl away the following morning. For three days he was able to stay in contact with the couple via WeChat, China’s most popular social media platform.
They promised to bring the girl home by the end of July 6 and sent frequent updates, but he said he grew increasingly suspicious when the couple refused his offer to drive to their location to pick Zixin up.
He subsequently took an overnight train home and said he spoke to his daughter for the last time that Sunday.
Zhang turned in his daughter’s missing report to authorities the next morning and posted the couple’s information online; authorities announced a 6-mile search zone shortly after.
When officials confirmed the deaths of the couple, Zixin’s whereabouts became a nationwide fixation.
State media outlets provided continuous coverage on the girl, with journalists descending on the hometowns of the subjects to uncover details. Additionally, Hangzhou police sent a task force to Guangdong as part of their investigation.
Fox News' Morgan Cheung contributed to this report.