The discovery of a body in the Friant-Kern Canal east of Delano Tuesday brought forth authorities from both the Kern County Sheriff's Office and Delano Police Department, and family members of a 26-year-old Delano woman who's been missing for almost two months.
Sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said mid-afternoon, before the body was removed from the water, that it hadn't been determined whether the body was male or female. He said no connection had been made to the disappearance of Erika Padron Lango.
Pruitt said the body had been in the water for an extended period of time, and based on what investigators could see at the scene, the death was suspicious. He did not elaborate as to what those details were.
He said the body appeared to be wedged against rocks on the west side of the canal, north of Woollomes Avenue and east of Zachary Avenue. A canal worker discovered it at about 11:50 a.m.
The area of the canal where the body was found is near the northernmost end of Lake Woollomes in an area frequently crossed by car traffic about two miles east of the city.
Pruitt said police and sheriff's department searchers in the Lango case had checked the surrounding area, but water levels fell several feet during the past few days. The canal worker told authorities he hadn't checked the area where the body was found in two months.
More than a dozen friends and relatives of Lango waited at the scene for information. Diana Torres, who said Lango is one of her best friends, said she'd searched down where the body was found and never noticed anything before.
Torres said she misses Lango's smile. It's been difficult not knowing where she is or what happened to her.
"She was the one I could go to for comfort," Torres said.
Maria Guerrero, an aunt of the missing woman, said she's worried but is holding out hope that the body isn't that of her niece.
Delano police have said Lango was last seen by her husband, Julio Lango, the evening of Oct. 9 when she left their Delano apartment to visit a friend. She did not arrive at the friend's home, and didn't show up for her dental assistant job the next day.
Police and family members have conducted extensive searches for Lango, with dozens of people walking through the rural areas surrounding Delano. Family and friends were out in force every day when she first disappeared.
Erika Lango has four children, and family have said she would never willingly leave them. She had filed a restraining order against her husband, who was arrested on suspicion of violating the order after she disappeared.
Police impounded Julio Lango's SUV and found a red sweater and a baseball bat inside. Police said at the time it was unknown if the items were connected to Erika Lango's disappearance.
Torres said she and others who know Erika Lango are just looking for some closure, whatever it may be.
"We don't know what to expect anymore," she said.