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ORANGE, CALIF. — Authorities Friday confirmed that a body found in a remote canyon in Orange County was a 36-year-old former Army sergeant, and they promptly arrested her former roommate who had made frequent public appearances and given a steady stream of media interviews during the two weeks she was missing.
The body was discovered late Thursday in an unincorporated area near Modjeska Canyon, and after an autopsy Friday it proved to be Maribel Ramos, city of Orange police Lt. Dave Hill said at a news conference.
The investigation then shifted from missing-persons to homicide. Ramos’ former roommate, Kwang Chol Joy, agreed to talk to detectives and was later arrested and booked into Orange County jail, Hill said. Hill answered no questions and would not elaborate on the evidence against Joy.
Joy gave several media interviews during the search for Ramos and appeared at a candlelight vigil for her Monday night.
“It’s very uncomfortable, but I want to be here,” Joy told KCAL-TV at the vigil.
Joy told the TV station that police had contacted him up to three times each day since Ramos disappeared, searching their apartment five times and seizing his cellphone and computer. Joy also said he provided DNA and allowed police to photograph him.
Police reached by phone late Friday could not say whether he had hired an attorney.
Ramos was last seen on surveillance video outside her apartment building May 2. She left behind her car and her dog, a Chihuahua mix named Mia, a constant companion. It appeared that she still had her cellphone and wallet.
She was reported missing the next day after she failed to show up for a softball game and a speaking engagement at a veterans group.
Police initially said there were no signs of foul play, but family and friends said it was out of character for her to suddenly cut ties with them. She was just a few weeks from graduating college with a degree in criminal justice.
In an interview with the Orange County Register earlier this week, Joy said he and Ramos became roommates when he moved to Orange County from Tennessee and she answered a Craigslist ad.
He said theirs was “like a love relationship as friends,” saying the two walked their dogs together, went dancing at night and even went on a cruise.
“She’s my only family,” Joy told the Register. “She’s in my will.”
Joy said he last saw Ramos in their apartment when he left to go for a drive on May 2, the day she was last seen. He said that when he returned, she was gone.
Joy said the disappearance had caused him stress and he wanted to remain in town and in public to assure people he hadn’t done anything wrong.
“I’m going to stay here as long as I can,” Joy said. “I don’t want to give the impression I’m running away.”