Celis family's church shares sadness after Isabel's remains found

Celis family's church shares sadness after Isabel's remains found
Source: KOLD
Source: KOLD

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The purple balloons used to be filled with hope. They were once a symbol of a wishful, safe return for Isabel Celis, then 6 years old. Those purple balloons are now resting with sadness, and flowers from visitors, on the driveway of Celis' former home.

Friday's breaking details of her remains being identified spread around the corner to the family's church. People there at St. Joseph Catholic Parish and School on South Craycroft Road in Tucson, said Isabel's parents, Sergio and Rebecca, are still members.

"It was the most devastating thing I probably could've heard," said Cynthia Watson, who said she was Isabel's former Sunday school teacher.

On Friday, March 31, the Tucson Police Department confirmed DNA analysis, of remains they found roughly one month ago, proved they belonged to Isabel. Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus did not say how long the remains were in that location in "rural Pima County" but he did say they were not found by accident. "It was not a happenstance," he said.

Father Ricky Ordonez of St. Parish said a large poster, showing Isabel's face with the text "missing," has rested inside the sanctuary since the day Celis disappeared nearly five years ago. The poster was still on display Saturday.

"We remember her in prayer. Our parish always sees her picture," Father Ordonez said.

That pictures shows a lively, young 6-year-old. It is the image Watson hopes people remember. It is the image before Isabel Celis disappeared from her family's home, in April 2012, without a trace.

"The community is hurting right now for a little girl that we prayed would come home," Watson said.

While Father Ordonez said he always kept the faith.

"I was one of the many who always hoped that one day or one night we would drive into the property here and find Isabel waiting for someone to direct her to go home. And now we know it's not going to happen."

The Celis family released the following statement through the Tucson Medical Center.

"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," the family said. "Now is our time to mourn. We ask for our privacy during this time so that we can do that."

Chief Magnus said he could not release information on any possible suspects but said he could not answer when asked if anyone was in custody.

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