/ Modified apr 1, 2017 7:25 a.m.

Remains of Tucson Child Missing 5 Years Found in Desert

Police say investigation continuing in death of Isabel Celis, who disappeared from her home in April 2012.

isabel celis poster spotlight Part of a "missing girl" poster for Isabel Celis from 88-CRIME.

The remains of Isabel Celis have been found in a rural part of Pima County, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus announced Friday.

Isabel was 6 years old when she disappeared from her midtown Tucson home in April 2012.

Magnus said at a news conference that the child's remains were found a month ago in an undisclosed part of the county, and were identified through DNA testing. He said the find was "not happenstance," but he declined to say more.

"I don't want to compromise our ability to successfully conclude this case," the chief said, adding that no arrest has been made.

"Obviously this is not the ending that any of us had hoped for, but this is also not the ending of this case. We are working this case very aggressively," he said.

"A substantial number" of officers were working on the case, Magnus said.

"The death of any child is a loss to the family and to our entire community," he said. "On behalf of our department I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Isabel's family."

Isabel's parents, Sergio and Rebecca Celis, were unavailable for comment, but the CEO of Tucson Medical Center, Judy Rich, released a statement on their behalf.

"This is not the news we had hoped to hear," Rich's statement said. "Becky (Isabel's mother) has been a member of the TMC family for many years, and our hearts grieve for Isa and her family."

"Obviously this is not the ending that any of us had hoped for, but this is also not the ending if this case. We are working this case very aggressively” – TPD Chief Chris Magnus

"The family has asked that TMC share the following statement on their behalf: 'We want to thank the community for the support they have continued to show for Isa over the years and for refusing to give up hope. Now is our time to mourn. We ask for our privacy during this time so that we can do that."

TMC/Celis family statement VIEW LARGER A statement from the Tucson Medical Center on behalf of the Celis family.

Magnus said police still need information from the public, and he asked anyone with information, including tips and leads, to call 88-Crime.

Isabel was 6 years old when her father called 911 the morning of April 21, 2012, saying his daughter was missing from her bedroom.

In the days following Isabel’s disappearance, officers from the Tucson Police Department flooded the area where she lived, near East Broadway Boulevard and Craycroft Road, doing hundreds of interviews.

The search, although low key, continued for much of the last five years.

Police reported receiving more than 2,200 phone calls and tips. The majority came shortly after the young girl went missing and have slowly began to happen less frequently.

In 2012, investigators collected samples of what appeared to be blood on the missing girl’s bedroom floor and on other items shortly after her disappearance.

Magnus Celis announcement VIEW LARGER Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus on March 31 announces that the remains of Isabel Celis have been found. Celis was 6 years old April 21, 2012, when she was reported missing.
Andrea Kelly, AZPM

The case was initially treated as a suspicious disappearance. About a month later, it was classified as an abduction.

FBI agents were in Tucson during the early stages of the investigation, and police received thousands of phone calls with possible tips.

A few weeks after the young girl went missing, Child Protective Services asked the girl’s father, Sergio, to stay away from his two other children, Isabel’s older brothers. He was later allowed back in the home, but details of why he was temporarily separated from his sons were not revealed.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the number of phone calls and tips received in the Isabel Celis case. The correct number is 2,200.

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