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Amanda Nenigar found dead after call for help from desert

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A 27-year-old woman who vanished more than a month ago in the desert near the California-Arizona border was found dead Friday night just outside Cibola, Ariz.

Amanda Nenigar’s body was found nude under a tree less than two miles from where her abandoned blue Toyota Camry was discovered weeks earlier. La Paz County Sheriff William Ponce said her clothing was scattered nearby, leading investigators to believe she was overcome by the daytime desert heat. Although they have not determined her cause of death, officials suspect she died due to exposure, Ponce said.

“We’re devastated,” her sister Marissa Nenigar told The Times on Monday. “I’m just sick to my stomach thinking about what she went through.”

The missing persons case generated such interest online that authorities requested on social media that people stop calling 911 to ask for updates. In another post, following news of her death, the La Paz County Sheriff’s Office wrote that people should “please respect the family during this time and avoid spreading rumors and assumptions.”

Nenigar’s family reported her missing Feb. 28 after her phone kept sending calls directly to voicemail and she never called back. A day earlier, Nenigar left the hotel where she was staying in Blythe at 3:44 a.m., according to surveillance video from the hotel.

About three hours later, she called police to report she had driven off the road and wasn’t sure of her location. She told the dispatcher she was trying to get to Palm Springs, according to a recording of the 911 call released by law enforcement.

“I think I fell asleep at the wheel,” she said. “I was tired so I went to go pull over, but I think I like ran off the road.”

In the nearly hourlong 911 call, Nenigar attempts to work with the dispatcher to give him her location. But she doesn’t have cell service and can’t recall what road she is traveling on. At one point during the call, she reads off coordinates, but the dispatcher struggles to pinpoint her exact location. He mentions that her phone is hitting off a tower in Palo Verde.

During the call, Nenigar tells dispatchers people are trying to kill her and she is attempting to get away. Nenigar’s mother, Jaime Mcbroom, said her daughter struggled with her mental health and battled addiction.

“She was trying to get through it,” she said. “Her mind goes through psychosis when she’s withdrawing or when her body’s detoxing, and I think that’s why she ended up out there.”

About 50 minutes into the 911 call, Nenigar tells the dispatcher that she’s scared. “Are you guys going to find me?” she asks.

Her car, which was stuck on a boulder in the desert about three miles from any major road, was discovered more than a week later. But Nenigar couldn’t be found.

Ponce, the sheriff, said his agency got involved about seven days after Nenigar went missing when one of his commanders heard from residents about a search for the woman. Law enforcement combed the area using aircraft equipped with night vision; they also used drones, and officers and residents searched on horseback and using off-road vehicles for roughly 10 days. U.S. Fish & Wildlife even searched the area using its vehicles, Ponce said.

The area where Nenigar went missing is remote and mountainous. Daytime temperatures lately have been in the 70s and 80s, and at night the mercury can fall into the 20s in the swath of land just adjacent to the Colorado River, Ponce said.

“It’s frustrating to be in the situation that we are in right now,” Ponce said. “The first 24 to 48 hours of any investigation are critical. I believe that had we been apprised of this incident immediately upon her disappearance by the other local agencies, we could have probably started to initiate some type of search. We didn’t know she was in our area.”

Nenigar has two daughters — an 8-year-old and one who is nearly 2 —and her favorite moments were those she spent with her girls, according to her mother and sister. She loved celebrating their birthdays and taking them to pumpkin patches. She cherished her family’s annual camping trips.

“She loved her daughters so much,” Marissa Nenigar said.

With few clues, Mcbroom had spent nearly every day of the last month searching the desert for her daughter. She called her name and played music by “Selena,” one of Nenigar’s favorite singers, in hopes that her daughter might hear it.

As news of Nenigar’s disappearance spread online, friends and strangers reached out with offers to help look for her.

At times, tips resulted in nothing more than dead ends. People reported seeing her in other states, as far away as Oklahoma. Other messages were downright cruel. A scammer contacted Marissa Nenigar saying that her sister had been kidnapped and demanded she pay ransom.

Mcbroom at one point consulted a psychic to try to determine her daughter’s whereabouts. But nothing panned out.

“I’ve saved her life a lot of times,” Mcbroom said, her voice breaking with emotion, “but I couldn’t do it this time.”

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