Police in New Orleans on Saturday found a car with a body inside believed to be that of missing teacher Terrilynn Monette.
The car, a black Honda Accord coupe, and body were found in Bayou St. John by a diver with the Slidell Police Department, who volunteered to dive the waterways in the search for Monette.
Monette, 26, was last seen March 2 leaving Parlay's Dream Lounge in New Orleans, where she had been celebrating with friends her nomination for Teacher of the Year.
While authorities couldn't immediately say whether the body was Monette, Detective Daniel Seuzeneau of the Slidell Police Department told CNN in an email that it is believed to be that of the missing teacher.
Monette was a Long Beach, Calif., native who moved to Louisiana to teach. Her family, who had been flying back and forth from California to look for her, recently appealed for FBI intervention, accusing the New Orleans Police Department of mishandling the case.
"I don't understand why it took them so long to find her car," Monette's mother, Toni Enclade, told The Times-Picayune. "This is supposedly one of the first places they would have checked. I'm just overwhelmed. It doesn't make sense."
Authorities have reportedly focused a large part of their search efforts on the waterways, because Monette would have had to have driven across the bayou to get from the bar to her home. Despite countless searches of the area, it was until the most recent search that volunteers made the discovery.
"We decided to sonar this area again and more heavily, and it got a hit," Louisiana state representative Austin Badon told the Associated Press.
A diver got into the water and found the car, which was covered with a film when it was pulled out. Badon described the body as "heavily decomposed."
While officials couldn’t immediately tell whether the body was that of a male or female, John Gagliano, the Orleans Parish coroner's chief investigator, told the Advocate an autopsy will be performed Monday to determine the identity of the body and cause of death.
Monette was a second-grade teacher at Woodland West Elementary School in Harvey, which is located across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.
According to reports from the time she went missing, her friends, who had left her at her car before leaving the bar, told police she planned to sleep before driving home. She left a parking lot about 5:15 a.m., and a traffic camera captured her making a turn in New Orleans' City Park.
In mid-March, an independent search-and-rescue team from Texas volunteered to comb the lagoons and waterways, but nothing was found during those searches.
My name is Carey Vanderborg and I'm a journalist working in New York City. I love food, travel, craft beer, live music and writing about all of the above.