RED BLUFF — Police are investigating the death of a missing 14-year-old Northern California girl as a homicide after her body was found in a field near a local high school.
Red Bluff Police Chief Paul Nanfito said members of the Tehama Inter-Agency SWAT team found the body of Marysa Nichols on Thursday morning near Red Bluff High School.
No suspects have been identified, and Nanfito declined to say how investigators think she was killed or whether there was any evidence of sexual assault.
According to Nanfito, the teen's stepfather said Marysa was supposed to meet her friends for lunch at 11 a.m. Tuesday but never arrived.
Marysa was reported missing Tuesday after she didn't return home from her independent study program at a charter school on the high school campus, the Record Searchlight of Redding reported (http://bit.ly/Vix9qk ).
Officers searched a field near the high school three times based on tips police received before finding the body, Nanfito said.
About 200 people gathered outside the Tehama County Courthouse on Thursday for a candlelight vigil. Some began sobbing after police revealed Marysa was the victim.
Family friend Sally Howarth said the teen's family is devastated, oscillating between "weeping and hysterical."
Lisa Escobar, superintendent of the Red Bluff Union High School District, extended condolences to the family and said the school has a safety plan to care for students' emotional and physical well-being.
"Our hearts go out to the family," Escobar said before a board meeting. "I think it's a community issue. We all need to work together."
Information from: Record Searchlight, http://redding.com