Yarianna Wheeler: Pregnant Chicago teen's body found in Lake Michigan

Her autopsy showed she had suffered 'several sharp force injuries' but cause of death is yet to be released


                            Yarianna Wheeler: Pregnant Chicago teen's body found in Lake Michigan
Yarianna Wheeler's body was pulled out from Lake Michigan (Lake County Sheriff's Office / Facebook)

LAKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS: The Lake County Sheriff's Office has confirmed the identity of a missing Black pregnant woman whose body was dragged from Lake Michigan earlier this month.

The woman who was referred as the "Lake Michigan Jane Doe," has now been identified as Yarianna G Wheeler, 19, according to the sheriff's office. She had been living in Chicago but was originally from Bellwood, police said. A surveillance photo of Wheeler was used to point detectives in the right direction.

"When they saw the image, they knew they were on the right track. From there, they were able to obtain dental records which led to her ultimately being identified," said Lt Christopher Covelli of Lake County Sheriff's Office.

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Wheeler's body was recovered on August 15, 2021, after a fisherman saw it floating in the water three miles southeast of Waukegan Harbor. She was about six to seven months pregnant and her body had likely been in the water for several days. Her autopsy showed she had suffered “several sharp force injuries,” but an official cause of death hasn’t been released yet. Her death is now being investigated as a homicide. After Lake County sheriff’s detectives received a tip, Wheeler was identified using dental records.

Covelli said the image was taken on the last known day she was seen alive. Wheeler's body was believed to have been in the water for no more than seven to 12 days when recovered on August 15. The sheriff's office had earlier released a sketch of what the woman may look like.

Officials have said that Wheeler may have entered the water "anywhere from the northern Indiana shoreline to the northern Illinois shoreline of Lake Michigan," according to the New York Post. Hours after Wheeler’s body was located, a US Coast Guard Helicopter found another body of a man, identified as 49-year old Martin Mendoza of Waukesha, Wisconsin, however, officials say Mendoza drowned at the 63rd Street Harbor in Chicago and the incidents are not related.

Anyone with information is asked to call Lake County Sheriff's Detectives at 847-377-4148.

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