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Missing Yuba City woman found dead as family questions handling of case

"I just want her to be remembered that she was a friend, she was loving, she was a good person. She had a pretty big heart."

YUBA CITY, Calif. — The bodies of a missing man and woman from Yuba city were found in an embankment near a car Wednesday.  However, while the bodies were found, a family is still searching for answers.

The bodies were identified as Janette Pantoja and Juan Almanza Zavala; both had been missing since Aug. 7. 

Alejandra Pantoja, Janette's older sister, described her as a loving sister, daughter, aunt and friend to many. 

"Like, if you needed a friend, she was there," Alejandra said. "If you needed anything, she would just be there for you." 

At the age of 29, her life was cut short. She and her ex-boyfriend, Zavala, drove to Reno for a car show called Hot August Nights. Even though Janette was in a new relationship, she remained friends with Zavala, according to Alejandra.

"They would go out like any other friends," she said. 

The two made plans to return home that same night but never made it back. 11 days later, the car they were driving was found in an embankment covered in brush on Highway 20 and Poker Flat Road after someone drove by and called the Gridley Police Department to report a crash.

"That family seen some tire marks on the road and the husband of the woman just said that he was gonna get out and check it out," Alejandra said. "He just had a feeling, and he ended up finding our sister." 

The family is questioning how exactly their sister died, and they think police neglected the case and should have done more to help. Alejandra and her younger sister Adriana said they told officials early on to check Poker Flat Road.

"We were nagging and nagging and nagging on them to go and investigate Poker Flat Road, and they told us that they were gonna send out a helicopter," Alejandra said. "They told us they sent four wheelers down there and I feel like if they sent four wheelers down there, they would've found them." 

ABC10 reached out to Yuba City Police Department but have not heard back as of publication. Meanwhile, Janette's family is grateful to the community for their support and hopes to get the word out there so that another family won't experience the same trauma they did.

"I just want her to be remembered that she was a friend, she was loving, she was a good person. She had a pretty big heart," Adriana said.

A GoFundMe page was created to help the family.

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