Coroner: Body pulled from bayou confirmed as Terrilynn Monette

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The body found in a car pulled from a New Orleans bayou over the weekend was identified Monday as a missing teacher and her death was ruled a drowning, the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office said

Dental records were used to identify Terrilynn Monette, who was 26 when she disappeared in early March, said coroner's investigator John Gagliano.

There were no signs of trauma to the body, so her death was ruled a drowning, city police said in a news release. Routine toxicology tests were pending.

The car holding the badly decomposed body was found and removed Saturday from Bayou St. John in New Orleans.

Monette was a Long Beach, Calif., native who moved to Louisiana to teach. She was last seen leaving a New Orleans bar not far from the bayou early March 2. She would have had to cross the waterway to get home.

She was a second-grade teacher at Woodland West Elementary School in Harvey, which is located across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.

The police department's accident reconstruction unit will try to work out how the car wound up in the bayou, and officers are working to enhance all video collected in the case, police spokeswoman Remi Braden said.

Monette's disappearance sparked a broad search handled in part by the Texas group Equusearch. A number of cars were pulled earlier from Bayou St. John as part of the search, some of which had been reported stolen.

Slidell Police Officer Mark Michaud, a recovery diver, volunteered for Saturday's new search. It turned up six vehicles not found during the earlier months-long search for her, said State Rep. Austin Badon, who was a leader of the search.

He said 24 vehicles were hauled out of Bayou St. John during the original search and three more were too deteriorated to tow. The more complicated salvage for those three will be done, he said.

"If there's a car in the water, it's in the water for a reason," Badon said. "A lot of them were stolen cars, insurance scams. We are going to remove all the cars we find."

Badon said it's not surprising previous searches missed six vehicles.

"You miss stuff," he said. "It's not easy. You're looking at a computer monitor, and if you don't go into the right area, or you don't have it set wide enough, if you look away, you can easily miss it."

Regardless of how long the search took, it wouldn't have changed the outcome. That, said Badon, "is just bitter. It's tough."

Badon said he hopes the case convinces more agencies to buy the expensive equipment required for underwater searches.

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