LUMBERTON, NC (WMBF) – A community is in mourning after authorities said that a body found Tuesday afternoon in Lumberton appears to be that of missing 13-year-old Hania Aguilar.
“This is heart-wrenching; we are absolutely devastated,” Lumberton Police Chief Michael McNeill said. “I wish we had a different outcome for Hania’s family, for the community that she lived in, and for the hundreds of law enforcement officers and searchers who put everything, everything they had in to finding her and bringing her back alive. We believe we have found the body of 13-year-old Hania Aguilar. The body was found in a body of water off Wire Grass Road in Robeson County about 4:45 p.m. yesterday afternoon.”
This announcement was made during a Wednesday afternoon press conference with FBI agents and Robeson County authorities.
McNeil said that preliminary tests indicate that the body found is Aguilar’s. However, dental records will be compared to make a final determination.
“Please continue to pray for Hania’s family and each other as the investigation continues,” McNeil said. “I want to ask the community and those on social media to please quit spreading the rumors that are being spread. This is the outcome that we all feared was going to happen; we did not want to hear this. This is not what we wanted to happen. We wanted to bring her back home alive to her family and our community.”
Tuesday’s discovery came more than three weeks after Aguilar was first reported to have been kidnapped from outside of her Lumberton home in the Rosewood Mobile Home Park on Nov. 5. People in the community have been on edge ever since then.
"The last time I seen them was at church and we were all trying to bring her back home, thanking to the Lord to help us out,” said neighbor Christian Santos. “I don’t see nobody coming outside no more like they use to. Everybody’s staying inside lately.”
“We are all heartbroken,” FBI supervisor Andy Delarocha said. “We believe we found Hania, but our work is far from over. We have to find out how she died, who did this to her and we have to bring the person or persons to justice.”
Delarocha repeated the words that he said the day that Aguilar we first reported meeting.
“I have the same plea to the public that I had from Nov. 5,” Delarocha said. “Please call us if you have information to help. Don’t post rumors to social media. Don’t share speculations about this case. On Nov. 5, I stood right here before you and stated I could not imagine how I would feel if this was one of my daughters. Last night I had to stand in front of Hania’s mother and explain to her what we had found and you can all imagine what that has done to her. You can further imagine what is happening to her today as she hears things that are not based in fact and are rumors and falsehoods.”
A massive search was conducted throughout Robeson County by investigators with the FBI, Lumberton police, the SBI, and the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office. These officials were following leads related to the search for Aguilar when the discovery was made.
“There is evidence at the scene and there is evidence that we received through the tip lines and all of it is going to help us piece together what happened to Hania,” Delarocha said.
“Our work is not over,” McNeil said. “We will not stop, not stop until we find the person or persons responsible and we bring them to justice. We will not stop until we do that.”
“We need the public’s help to determine when and how the body was placed on Wire Grass Road in Robeson County,” Delarocha said. “If you have surveillance cameras near Wire Grass Road, call the tip line at 910-272-5871.”
Aguilar was reportedly kidnapped outside her home at the Rosewood Mobile Home Park, located on Elizabethtown Road in Lumberton, on Nov. 5 just before 7 a.m.
Those in the Lumberton community are mourning her loss.
Maria Perez lives in the community and said she and Aguilar’s family are both from Guatemala. Speaking in Spanish, she said she’s known the family for many years and watched Hania grow up.
“What’s been going on with this little girl I feel really sad. I am a mother. It hits home because it could be my daughter,” Perez said.
She added that she went and visited Aguilar’s mother Wednesday and said she’s understandably sad.
One church took time to pray for their community and the family during this difficult time.
“If I had to say anything to this family at this moment, I would love them to know we are praying for them and whatever we can do to bring this person to justice, trust and believe.” said Reverend Shedrick Byrd of Sandy Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
Byrd has lived in Robeson County his entire life and said the news from the FBI officials left him heartbroken.
The news of Aguilar’s death, added to the fact many in the Lumberton community are still rebuilding from Hurricane Florence, has Deacon Ronald Powell continuing to pray for his community.
“Only thing I can say is God bless. Whatever the issue is, God will take care; that’s all I can say.” said Powell.
An autopsy is going to be conducted to determine the cause of death.
Delarocha said there are no suspects at this time and asks that anyone with information to call the tip line number at 910-272-5871