Janette Pantoja and Juan Zavala: Couple, who went missing same day, same place as Kiely Rodni, found DEAD

The ex-couple, who broke up years ago but remained friends, was last heard from on their way home from the Hot August Nights car show in Reno, Nevada

Janette Pantoja and Juan Zavala: Couple, who went missing same day, same place as Kiely Rodni, found DEAD
Janette 'JJ' Pantoja and her ex-boyfriend Juan Almanza Zavala were found dead after they went missing on the same day and in the same area as Kiely Rodni (Yuba City Police Department and FindKiely.com)
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TRUCKEE, CALIFORNIA: A California woman and her ex-boyfriend have been found dead after they disappeared the same day that teen Kiely Rodni went missing from a campsite. The bodies of Janette 'JJ' Pantoja, 29, and Juan Almanza Zavala, 36, were discovered near their car that crashed down an embankment in Nevada County on Wednesday, August 17, according to the Nevada County Sheriff's Office. Zavala was tentatively identified due to the nature of his injuries, the sheriff's office said, according to Fox News.

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The former couple, who broke up years ago but remained friends, was last heard from on their way home from the Hot August Nights car show in Reno, Nevada but they never made it back. Pantoja's family alerted police shortly after her August 6 disappearance that her phone last pinged in the area where the car and bodies were found 11 days later. Pantoja texted her current boyfriend that she would be home in 30 minutes around 11 pm on August 6. Shortly after that, her phone stopped sharing its location. “She just never communicated anything other than that,” sister Alejandra Pantoja said. “She’s not like that.”

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On the same day, Rodni, 16, went missing from a campground in Truckee, California, during a party with hundreds of people. She was last seen after midnight on August 6, about 23 hours before Pantoja and Zavala were last heard from. An initial search of the area where the duo’s cellphones were last pinged turned up no evidence. Their bodies were eventually discovered when a 911 caller alerted police to a vehicle down an embankment near Highway 20 and Poker Flats Road in Penn Valley. The accident was not visible from the road. The crash site is about 70 miles from the Prosser Family Campground in Tahoe National Forest, where Kiely Rodni was last seen at a party shortly after midnight on August 6. 

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The former couple was driving a Blue 2002 Ford Explorer (Yuba City Police Department)
The former couple was driving a Blue 2002 Ford Explorer (Yuba City Police Department)

However, police said that there is no evidence that the cases are connected. While Rodni’s disappearance sparked at least 10 days of extensive searches, including almost 16,000 man-hours by land, air, and water, Alejandra Pantoja claimed she was struggling to get a call back from the police. “I thought the police were pretty rude,” she told Fox5 New York. “I called them … because I wanted to know about my sister, and they were like, ‘We can’t keep in contact with you every day.’” “They’ve been telling us they were going to send an aerial search and they haven’t done that,” she continued. “I just feel like if something happened to them, or if he did something to her, they’re just giving potential suspects time to run.”

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Rodni is described as 5 feet, 7 inches tall, and about 118 pounds. She has blonde hair and hazel eyes. She has a tattoo on her ribs of the number "17." She has a nose ring and several other piercings and was wearing three gold necklaces the night she went missing, according to her friends. She was wearing green Dickies pants, a black studded belt, and a black spaghetti-strap bodysuit, according to authorities. She may have been wearing a pink and white "Odd Future" hoodie.

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"We are still looking for any clues, videos, tips, any information to help us to put pieces together and help us to direct where we're going and how we're going to continue to do a search," Capt Sam Brown of the Nevada County Sheriff's Office said during a news briefing. "We are moving into a more limited but continuous search and rescue effort."

The search for Rodni started where her cellphone last pinged near the Prosser Creek Reservoir and moved outward but no signs of her have been found. No one from the party reported seeing her leave. 

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Kiely Rodni appeared on video earlier in the night she went missing wearing a pink and white
Kiely Rodni appeared on video earlier in the night she went missing wearing a pink and white 'Odd Future' hoodie, according to Placer County Sheriff's Office (Placer County Sheriff's Office and FindKiely.com)

The disparity between the investigations for the missing Hispanic former couple and Rodni, who is white, comes as advocates have called out law enforcement agencies and media outlets for dedicating fewer resources to the disappearances of people of color. “How is it that they’re doing a big deal for her but not making a big deal for our family member?” Alejandra Pantoja said. “It’s not okay.” 

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