An autopsy conducted Tuesday at the state Medical Examiner's Office near Portland confirmed remains found by Hwy. 20 east of Bend on Sunday were those of a Bend woman who vanished a week earlier, police said.
The remains have been confirmed to be Pivoyne Castro-Luna, 42, last seen on Sunday, March 9 and reported missing the following day, said police Lt. Nick Parker.
"The investigation has been confirmed as a criminal homicide," Parker said, adding that the cause of death was found to be blunt force trauma.
Parker said police continue their search for Honorio De Horta-Frias, 40, as a "person of interest" in the case. Anyone with information was asked to contact Bend police at (541) 693-6911.
Parker said Bend police are working with several police agencies on the case, including law enforcement in California.
Despite the still-missing person of interest, Bend police Lt. Nick Parker told NewsChannel 21 late Tuesday: "People are definitely safe here. ... We believe the community is safe at this point."
The remains were found Sunday afternoon in a brushy area just south of Highway 20 near Ward Road, Parker said.
Several search teams had fanned out across areas east of Bend Sunday to continue the hunt for evidence in the disappearance.
Police still were not offering any details about the condition of the body, exactly where it was found, or what led them to search the area.
Several investigators with Oregon State Police, Bend police and the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office worked at the scene for several hours Sunday, gathering evidence.
Parker would not say much about the relationship between Horta-Frias and Castro-Luna.
"They are acquaintances , they know each other, and he again is a person of interest at this point," Parker said Sunday.
Parker also said investigators are no longer trying to find a 2003 white standard cab Toyota Tacoma pickup with Oregon license plate 9P2954. Previously, police described it as being associated with De Horta-Frias, who they had said was believed to have fled south in in it as the search geared up a week ago.
Parker said the truck had been found out of the area, but declined to divulge more details.
Sgt. John Lawrence confirmed the location of Sunday's search after two NewsChannel 21 Facebook commenters asked about seeing Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue teams working in the area of Hamby and Ward roads near Highway 20, with yellow caution tape.
It had been a week since Castro-Luna last was seen and six days since she was reported missing.
The mystery deepened and investigation expanded Thursday as police taped off and searched a new crime scene near Bend High School.
Sheriff’s Search and Rescue teams searched several areas east of Bend on Wednesday, and on Thursday, the street was taped off at NE fifth Street and Burnside Avenue.
A neighbor said police knocked on her door, asking if she had seen an RV parked on her street.
A woman who employed Castro-Luna said Thursday she couldn’t believe something like this could happen to her.
“I’ve known ‘Pivo’ off and on for about 10 years – she’s worked for me,” said Pam Bronson. “She’s always been so reliable – just darling, sweet, kind of shy.”
Bronson said she texted Castro-Luna Sunday night, asking if she wanted to clean her house, and she responded. That was the night she was seen with De Horta-Frias. Bronson said she texted her again Tuesday, and there was no reply.
Investigators have determined Castro-Luna was with De Horta-Frias, who she “has been known to associate with,” Parker said Wednesday.
Police said De Horta-Frias is the owner of a white 1979 Ford Holiday Rambler motor home that was found last Tuesday on Janalee Place near Copperfield Avenue, west of 27th Street and south of Bear Creek Road in Bend.
Worried neighbors watched as crime scene investigators were brought in, portable lights erected and a large vacant field beside the motor home was taped off late Tuesday and Wednesday.