Family says body found is that of missing 13-year-old

Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The family of 13-year-old Delaney Zutz said they believe a body found in the woods near their South Anchorage home is their daughter, but Anchorage police would not confirm the identification.

Anchorage Police Lt. Ken Cole said late Tuesday that no official identification and no information about cause of death would be issued until an autopsy was completed. But family members said police described jewelry and clothing worn by the victim, including an ankle bracelet and a pair of white tennis shoes with blue laces.

Then they knew for sure.

''Unfortunately, there's just about zero hope,'' David Zutz said.

The body was found Monday by three relatives who flew to Anchorage from Minnesota to help search for the missing eighth-grader. They spotted the body in the woods, off a trail and called police, said David Zutz, Delaney's father.

Delaney's parents and her older sister, Erica Reese, were at the Anchorage Police Department when word arrived that a body had been found. They had reported Delaney missing and were giving police more information. Reese said she assumed from the moment she learned of the body that her sister was dead.

For Delaney Zutz's family and friends, her disappearance never made sense.

She vanished early July 10, somewhere around 2:30 a.m., the family said. Police were told she was on the phone with her boyfriend when a 15-year-old identified as ''Brandon'' knocked at her bedroom window. She told her boyfriend she was going somewhere with Brandon, her family said.

But Delaney rarely, if ever, sneaked out, said friend and classmate Scott Bombard.

''She's afraid to get caught,'' he said.

Around 6:30 a.m., Delaney's mother, Jinny Zutz, discovered her daughter's empty bed and started calling friends and neighbors.

Although police automatically classify missing teens as probable runaways until evidence suggests something else, Delaney's family said they never thought she had run away. For part of the first day, they thought she had gone to a friend's house and neglected to call home. But by Thursday, family members were printing fliers and posting them around town, eventually passing out more than 4,000 copies.

On Tuesday evening, police would say only that they had identified several ''Brandons'' among Delaney's acquaintances. They also said they were interested in locating several vehicles described by neighborhood children including a gray van.

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