Investigators were working Saturday to identify a body found in a forest a few miles from a missing police dispatcher's home, but the dispatcher's family said they were all but certain it was her.
Authorities would not say whether they think the body searchers found was that of 46-year-old Dawna Natzke. But her sister, Debbie Shingler, said her family think's it her, even though they haven't seen the body.
"It's not confirmed to be Dawna, but we all know," she told the Associated Press.
Natzke, a mother of three, was last seen leaving a Dec. 21 Christmas party with her 28-year-old boyfriend, Kevin Duck. According to police, Duck told detectives the two of them returned to her home in Hot Springs Village that night, and that she wasn't there when he awoke the next morning. It wasn't until Dec. 23, when Natzke failed to show up for work, that she was reported missing.
Although there are security gates at each of the central Arkansas town's entrances, there are no video cameras that would have recorded her leaving the community of 13,000 that caters to retirees.
Volunteer searchers found the body in a remote part of a forest 5.5 miles from where Natzke's burned-out station wagon turned up in Ouachita National Forest, Garland County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. James Martin said. Authorities hadn't yet searched the area. Police went to Natzke's mother's home at about 10 a.m. to let the family know a body had been found.
"I'm not aware of but one missing person in this area up here," said A.L. Cornett, the police and fire chief in Hot Springs Village, where Natzke has worked for years. "Some suspicions are very strong, but again, until we get confirmation, we don't know who this is."
Authorities wouldn't describe the condition of the body, but Martin said foul play is suspected in the death. Crime scene tape stretched across pine trees blocked access to the area.
"They don't want to speculate anything until after the crime lab has done their investigation," Shingler said. "I am sure if it wasn't [Natzke's body], they would be calling us."
Police have not named any suspects in the disappearance of Natzke, who had recently separated from her husband.
Duck didn't return a phone message left Saturday at his mother's home. His cellphone number, which went to a voicemail on Friday, had been disconnected by Saturday.