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Jogger's body likely discovered
Remains found in lake in Sauk Trail Woods

Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Norman Parish and Rick Ducat

After searching for more than two days, family and friends of Alma Mendez got news they didn't a want to hear Tuesday afternoon - a woman fitting the description of the mother of three was found dead in a lake in a Cook County forest preserve near Chicago Heights.
"I feel horrible," said a tearful Yesenia Ledezma, Mendez's sister, as she walked from the site, too upset to continue talking.
» Click to enlarge image
 
Police say the body discovered in the Sauk Trail Woods Forest Preserve is Alma Mendez.
A volunteer searcher loca-ted a woman's body about 1 p.m., clad in a navy-blue jogging outfit that Mendez was said to be wearing, near the edge of Sauk Lake in the Sauk Woods Forest Preserve, forest preserve district police said. Mendez's Ford sport utility vehicle was parked nearby, police said.
"Several people tried to fish the woman's body out with branches before police came to assist," police spokesman Steve Mayberry said.
The county medical examiner's office had not positively identified the woman as of late Tuesday night.
Ledezma believes she was one of the last people to talk to Mendez - speaking with her by cell phone Sunday afternoon while Mendez was taking part in her regular jog along a trail in the forest preserve, near 26th Street and Euclid Avenue.
Maria Lopez, another sister of Mendez, said the family grew worried when Mendez did not return about 6 p.m. and filed a missing persons report.
Police and volunteers combed the woods with dogs and a helicopter Monday and Tuesday. Mendez's relatives and friends also handed out fliers and formed small groups to search the woods on their own.
Star Garcia said Mendez called and left a brief voicemail about 2 p.m. Sunday.
Garcia said Mendez asked that she call back because Mendez "had something important to ask," but nothing in the message indicated Mendez was in trouble.
Several friends of the family said Mendez and her husband recently separated. She worked as a receptionist at a Steger dental practice. Her three children are ages 5, 14 and 18.
On Tuesday, most of the neighbors who live along the row of neatly manicured homes in the 200 block of West 15th Street said they didn't know the Mendez family. There was no answer at the door of the Mendez's white, two-story frame house with a trellis and potted flowers in front.
South Chicago Heights director of public safety Bill Joyce said the case was considered for now a death investigation, pending an autopsy that would reveal the cause of death.
Depending on the outcome of the autopsy, it could be classified as a homicide investigation, he said.
Mendez's husband, Conrado Mendez, said he hoped the body was not that of his wife. He said he was "very concerned" about his wife and that the couple had been separated for about three weeks.


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