UPDATE May 24, 2018:
Elizabeth Salgado’s remains were found on May 18, 2018 in Hobble Creek Canyon, Utah. Authorities said a man who made a stop along the road noticed the human remains and notified authorities, KTVX reports.
“This is a homicide investigation under suspicious circumstances,” said former Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy. “But we don’t know how or why she ended up in Hobble Creek.”
Elizabeth Salgado’s two front teeth were missing, indicating she may have tried to fight off her abductor before she disappeared in 2015, KTVX reports.
December 3, 2015:
It's a question family members in Utah have been asking for months: Where is Elizabeth Salgado? The 26-year-old had just moved to Provo, Utah, from Mexico on a scholarship to learn English. But one day as she walked home from class, Salgado simply vanished.
Now another famous Elizabeth who went missing in Utah has joined the mission to bring Salgado home safely. Elizabeth Smart is the face that gives hope to the parents of missing children everywhere.
"We are looking for you and we will find you," said Elizabeth Smart.
Elizabeth Salgado, 26, a shy, devout Mormon, had just moved from her home in Chiapas, Mexico, 2,400 miles away to Provo, Utah.
Salgado had studied to become an engineer, but her mother, Libertad, says her daughter's true calling was to learn English and spread the gospel. So Salgado accepted a scholarship at Nomen Global Language Center in Provo.
Salgado's uncle, Rosemberg Salgado, says his niece even got a job at a local Mexican restaurant. She was living her own American dream. But Elizabeth's dream was stolen from her on a busy stretch of highway in the middle of the day.
It was the afternoon of April 16, 2015: Elizabeth Salgado had just finished class and started a mile-and-a-half walk back to her apartment. It was a route she never strayed from in the three weeks she'd been in Provo.
Along the way she texted her sister in Mexico, as she did every day, to let her know she was walking home. And then she sent a text to her other uncle, Rudemberth Salgado, who lived nearby in Orem, to ask for a ride to the store later that evening. Both texted her back, but neither got a response.
Now they fear something terrible has happened to Elizabeth.
"This particular case was concerning right from the outset," said Provo Police Lieutenant Brandon Post. "She had a pattern and personality that was well-established and there was a complete change in behavior and pattern from the moment she disappeared."
Lt. Post and the Provo Police Department launch a massive search for Elizabeth.
"There was no activity on her cellphone, bank accounts, email or her social media accounts that she was fairly active on," said Post.
They painstakingly search every single inch of that bustling mile and half route.
Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped at age 14 in 2002, her father Ed and the Salgados rally the Mormon community to find Elizabeth Salgado.
"What brought Elizabeth [Smart] home was everyone's help finding her," said Ed Smart.
Police come up empty: no clues, no witnesses, no body. So investigators start looking beyond that stretch of highway for something or someone who may know more.
And then Rosemberg Salgado remembers a conversation he had with his niece shortly before she mysteriously vanished.
"She told me there was a guy that wanted to become her boyfriend," said Rosemberg. "She didn't want anything to do with him. And she said that the guy got very upset."
But the young man checks out clean.
Investigators even question her uncle Rudemberth Salgado, since he was the last person to communicate with her. A polygraph test clears him.
And then news the family was desperately hoping not to hear: A body discovered in a suitcase along a road 30 miles away in Salt Lake City.
It's not Elizabeth. The family breaths a momentary sigh of relief.
But then a disturbing phone call to Elizabeth's sister in Mexico: A man claiming to have Elizabeth demands a half-million dollars.
The FBI determines the call was a cruel hoax. The caller never had Elizabeth Salgado.
And then the case goes cold.
"We have exhausted pretty much every investigative lead available to us through interviews, searches, you name it," said Lt. Post.
Still, Lt. Post travels her route every chance he gets, chasing tips and hoping for a miracle.
"Somebody somewhere knows something," said Lt. Post. "We need that person to call in no matter how insignificant the information may seem to them we need them to call because that may be tip of information that helps us locate Elizabeth."
In the eight months since Elizabeth Salgado mysteriously vanished, the crowds of volunteers have thinned, the posters have all faded. But the Salgado family still prays every single day that somehow some way she will come back to them.
"To whoever has my niece, to just have compassion on this little girl, just let her go, so that she can come to our lives, please," said Rosemberg Salgado.