Missing Petaluma woman's body found in South Lake Tahoe

  • (l to r) Mariah Harvey, 17, Jazmine Taylor, 18, Taylor Dardis, 17, and Chanel Kelly, 16 cry together outside the Petaluma home of their friend Alyssa Byrne, 19, whose body was discovered Friday morning in South Lake Tahoe. Byrne was reported missing on New Year's Eve. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

STATELINE, Nev. — For three increasingly frantic days, family members and friends had searched for Alyssa Byrne, 19, of Petaluma. On Friday morning they began mourning her death, their hopes dashed by the discovery of her body in a snowbank in South Lake Tahoe.

A worker atop an elevated utility truck spotted the body just as search and rescue crews were launching their efforts for the day, and just as Byrne's father, Kevin, was rounding up fliers to distribute in the hope of generating clues to her whereabouts.

"I couldn't stand now if I wanted to," Kevin Byrne said several hours later, seated at a table with his brother and friends at the Horizon Casino Resort in Stateline, where his daughter had stayed while attending a three-day music festival.

Authorities said there were no preliminary signs of traumatic injury or foul play.

Byrne wiped back tears as he described calling his wife, Kimberly Miller-Byrne, in Petaluma with the news.

"My wife couldn't speak," he said. "Thankfully, she was surrounded by family and friends ... when I had to give her the worst news of her life."

Until 9 a.m. Friday, Kevin Byrne had been working with two dozen family members and friends to print new fliers about his daughter and raising reward money in excess of $10,000 — all to ensure his daughter made it back home.

But she lay hidden from view just 10 feet off a busy road and a mile or so from the Lake Tahoe Community College campus where the SnowGlobe Music Festival was held.

Douglas County, Nev., Undersheriff Paul Howell said she was lying uncovered and that the case would remain under investigation.

"Our condolences to Alyssa's family and friends," Howell said in announcing her death at a news conference. "It's an ending we did not want to see. Our hearts go out to the family."

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