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Police: Remains of Isabel Celis found 5 years after disappearance

A body found in rural Pima County has been identified as Isabel Mercedes Celis, who was reported missing from her Midtown home in 2012, when she was six years old.

The body, located earlier this month, was confirmed to be the missing girl's through DNA testing at a laboratory in Virginia, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said Friday.

Magnus said he could provide few details about where and how Isabel's body was located, but said that it wasn't "happenstance."

No arrests have been made in the case, he said.

The girl was reported missing the morning of April 21, 2012, by her father, Sergio Celis.

The case garnered national attention, with law enforcement and volunteers conducted a concerted search — and finger-pointing directed at the parents, Sergio and Becky Celis, by some members of the public. The family held a tearful press conference that week, pleading for information.

"This is a loss to the family and the entire community," Magnus said Friday, describing the confirmation that the body was Isabel's as "not what anyone had hoped for."

Magnus said that providing further details could jeopardize the department's ability to continue investigating the case, and asked anyone with any information to come forward and call 911 or the anonymous 88-CRIME tip line. He said that police had received some 2,200 tips in the case, and that law enforcement has continued to actively pursue leads despite the passing of the years.

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Magnus did not indicate if police had determined if Isabel's death took place around the time of her disappearance. TPD used an outside lab to undertake more sophisticated testing than the department's local lab is equipped to perform, he said.

"Although this confirmation may provide some degree of closure, this also sadly ends the hope of bringing Isabel home safely to her family," said Sgt. Pete Dugan, a spokesman for TPD.

"We want to thank the community for the support they have continued to show for Isa over the years and for refusing to give up hope," the Celis family said in a statement released through Becky Celis's employer, Tucson Medical Center. "Now is our time to mourn. We ask for our privacy during this time so that we can do that."

Police "will continue to pursue those responsible for any involvement in Isabel's disappearance and death, and will pursue prosecution to the highest level possible," Dugan said.

Isabel Celis was last seen when she went to bed April 20, 2012, at 11 p.m., at the family's home in the 5600 block of E. 12th St. Sergio Celis discovered his daughter missing from her bedroom the following morning. After he searched the home, police were contacted around 8 a.m.

The ensuing search involved TPD, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service, and information distribution by Mexican police.

At the time of her disappearance, Isabel weighed 44 pounds and was 3' 8" tall. She had long brown hair, hazel eyes and was missing two front teeth, one on the bottom and one on top.

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