Body found in forest preserve during search for missing mom

Investigators searching for a woman who disappeared during a jog through a south suburban Chicago forest preserve found a body Tuesday and police said they believed it was the missing mother of three.

Alma Mendez had been missing since making cell phone calls Sunday on her way to the Sauk Trail Woods Forest Preserve in South Chicago Heights.

Police are assuming the remains discovered in the preserve are Mendez, Chicago Heights police Detective Joe Bruni told The (Tinley Park) Daily Southtown for a story posted on its Web site.

The body was found in a lake near the spot where Mendez's sport utility vehicle was parked, Bruni said.

South Chicago Heights Director of Public Safety Bill Joyce told the Chicago Tribune that the missing person case had been reclassified as a death investigation, but added it was too early to tell how Mendez died.

"That's who it appears to be, though there is no identification yet," he said.

The Cook County medical examiner's office sent investigators to the forest preserve, but the body has not been officially identified, an office spokesman said.

Mendez's husband, Conrado Mendez, told the Chicago Sun-Times that he was "very concerned" about his wife, and that the couple had been separated for about three weeks.

"I am very concerned about her," he said. "We had three children together."

Mendez often jogged in the preserve, said her sister, Maria Lopez.

After her family reported Mendez missing, Cook County Forest Preserve police and local police departments searched the area with dogs and a helicopter, and dozens of family members and friends handed out fliers and searched the woods on their own.

Mendez friend Star Garcia said Mendez left her a cell phone message around 2 p.m. on Sunday, asking her to call back because she "had something important to ask," but did not say anything unusual, Garcia said.

"She just sounded normal," Garcia said.

Mendez had three children, including two teenagers, and worked as a receptionist at a dental practice, officials said.

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