As Southern California investigators try to ID young girl found in duffle bag, another missing child turns up alive

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When a young girl matching her missing daughter’s description turned up dead in a duffle bag dumped near a rural trail in Southern California, Nefertirri Neal said her heart sank the day a homicide detective called her in an attempt to identify the body.

“There’s nothing worse than to not know where your baby is and a homicide detective calls you and asks you what color is her shirt and where are her scars,” Neal told ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

But on Saturday, just days after Neal received the dreadful call, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced Neal’s daughter, Skylar Mannie, had been found alive.

PHOTO: Skylar Mannie in an undated photo.Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department
Skylar Mannie in an undated photo.

“We are happy to share that 13-year-old old Skylar Mannie, from Lancaster, has been found,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement Saturday evening. “Skylar is safe and being reunited with her family.”

Details on how Neal’s daughter, who went missing on Valentine’s Day, was found were not released.

‘I think all the emotions that I just had bottled up so that I could function and look for her kind of just came out all at once’

Sheriff’s deputies located Skylar just hours after Neal tearfully pleaded with her to “come home.”

“She’s here now. She’s in her room,” Neal told ABC News when reached by phone Sunday morning.

PHOTO: This sketch provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department shows the clothing found on a girl whose body was found along a Southern California hiking trail, as they seek the publics help in identifying her.Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department via AP
This sketch provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shows the clothing found on a girl whose body was found along a Southern California hiking trail, as they seek the public’s help in identifying her.

She said the reunion with her daughter “was actually pretty crazy.”

“I think all the emotions that I just had bottled up so that I could function and look for her kind of just came out all at once,” Neal said.

Even before Skylar turned up alive, sheriff’s officials said she was not the girl found dead March 5. The girl’s body was bent and stuffed inside a black duffle bag, and dumped near an equestrian trail in Hacienda Heights, California, about 95 miles south of where Skylar Mannie went missing.

Sheriff’s investigators said there was no link between the cases.

The still unidentified girl was discovered by Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department workers clearing landscape near the trail, the sheriff’s department said.

PHOTO: This sketch provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department shows the clothing found on a girl whose body was found along a Southern California hiking trail, as they seek the publics help in identifying her.Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department via AP
This sketch provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shows the clothing found on a girl whose body was found along a Southern California hiking trail, as they seek the public’s help in identifying her.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office said an autopsy on the mystery girl’s body was complete and her death had been ruled a homicide, though the cause and manner of her death were not released.

The girl was believed to be between 8 and 13 years old, according to the sheriff’s department. When her body was discovered, the girl was dressed in dark pants with panda prints on them and a pink long-sleeve shirt with the words “Future Princess Hero” written on the front.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office told ABC News on Sunday morning that the girl still remains unidentified.

Former FBI agent and ABC News contributor Steve Gomez, who lives in the Hacienda Heights area but is not involved in the investigation, said residents are in shock.

Gomez added that, based on his experience, the girl likely did not live in the area.

“She’s not immediately recognizable to anybody,” Gomez said last week. “What it leads me to believe is that this child is probably from an area not immediately near Hacienda Heights. She’s probably from someplace outside of the general Los Angeles area, maybe even another state.”

Neal said the joy of authorities finding her daughter alive was tempered by the ongoing investigation into the unsolved death of the girl in the duffle bag.

“My heart goes out to her and her family,” Neal told ABC News. “I hope that they get some resolution and find some peace.”

ABC News’ Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.