Body believed to be missing woman, 23

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

July 20, 2007 - Authorities Friday morning were investigating the death of a woman found on Bethel Road in Como,  believed to be the missing 23-year-old officers spent about eight hours trying to locate after she was reported missing Thursday.

Staff Photo by Angela PItts

Bethel Road in Como was blocked off this morning by authorities investigating the death of a woman, believed to be the missing 23-year-old officers spent about eight hours trying to locate Thursday. An autopsy has been ordered to confirm the woman’s identity and determine the cause of death.

A man riding a bicycle near the Como Post Office contacted emergency dispatchers about 10 a.m. today after he discovered a body lying near the road.

Hopkins County Sheriff's Office deputies and investigators and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers responded along with emergency medical personnel. They contacted Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Ronny Glossup after confirming the young woman was dead.

"She was found within relatively close proximity of the residence of the missing woman," HCSO Investigator Lewis Tatum said, referring to Crystal Vallenga, who officers searched for into the late hours Thursday night. "We're not 100 percent sure, but believe its her."

An autopsy has been ordered, which Tatum said will confirm her identity. He also said there were no signs of foul play and no apparent severe injuries.

A search was launched Thursday afternoon to attempt to locate Vallenga, who was reported missing from her County Road 2332 residence.Vallenga's mother-in-law said she was last seen between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday at the residence, wearing blue jeans shorts and a green John Deere T-shirt.

All available sheriff's deputies and investigators, the Sheriff's Posse, Como and Hopkins County firefighters and Como police began the search. Texas Department of Public Safety launched helicopters, and HCSO Chief Deputy Rickey Morgan took to the skies in his personal aircraft to assist in the search.. The Tedford Unit of Texas Department of Criminal Justice also brought in a bloodhound in an attempt to locate Vallenga.

The planes at one point had to be grounded due to bad weather but later continued the search, which eventually wrapped up just before midnight, according to sheriff's reports.

They planned to continue looking for Vallenga and to contact local press and media outlets Friday to put out an alert for help in locating the missing woman before the bicyclist reported finding the woman, according to Tatum.

Officers were still at the scene at 12:30 p.m. Friday, awaiting the arrival of a Texas Ranger called in from Mount Pleasant, as the Ranger assigned to Hopkins County is currently out of the area. Texas Department of Public Safety was also assisting at the scene.

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