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(NEW YORK POST) — The remains of a missing Native American woman in Washington state have been discovered in a freezer — and her death has been classified as a homicide, according to a new report.
Rosenda Strong, a 31-year-old mother of four, had been staying at her sister Cissy Reyes’ Wapato home back on Oct. 2 when she left with her friend to visit Legends Casino in Toppenish, the Seattle Times reported.
Strong, a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and a descendant of the Yakama Nation, hadn’t been seen since, according to the report.
From then on, her sister became outspoken — posting flyers throughout the area, sharing them on social media and holding various events for her and other missing and murdered indigenous women.
On Friday morning, Reyes learned of her sister’s tragic fate.
“My baby sister Rosenda Strong’s remains [were] found in a freezer,” she posted to Facebook. “Yes, it has been confirmed to me this morning from the FBI agent working on my sister’s case.”
“We have her back, not the way we wanted, but we can after 275 days of looking, wondering, our baby sister, mother, aunt, cousin, friend is coming home to our mother….Now we can finally lay my sister to rest.”
Authorities confirmed to the outlet that Strong’s remains were found on the Fourth of July in a freezer near Toppenish.
“The Yakima County Coroner’s Office and its staff offer our condolences to the family and friends of Rosenda Strong,” Yakima County Coroner Jim Curtice said in a news release. “Rosenda’s remains were found in a freezer on July 4 … in the Toppenish area. The remains were positively identified with the use of dental records.”
“Rosenda’s death has been classified as a homicide,” the statement continued. “The cause of death remains under investigation.”
Two homeless men found Strong’s remains in an unplugged freezer around 4:30 p.m. on the holiday — prompting a response from Yakima County sheriff’s detectives, Yakama Nation tribal police and the FBI, sheriff’s spokesman Casey Schilperoort told the Seattle Times.
Federal and tribal officers responded because the remains were found within the Yakama Nation, according to the report.
Friends, family and strangers gathered for a candlelight vigil in Strong’s memory Sunday night, according to local station KIMA-TV.
“She’d always make me look in her eyes and she said, ‘I love you. I’ll be back, OK?’ And I said, ‘OK, love you,’” Reyes said at the vigil. “And she walked out the door. That was my last memory of her.”