ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Human remains found in Orange County last month are confirmed to be those of Tia Bonta, a 24-year-old woman who was reported missing in 2016, according to a family member.
The remains were found by two men picking palmetto berries on Sept. 29 in the area of Fort Christmas and Lake Picket roads.
Kevin Bonta, the father of Tia Bonta, told News 6 authorities called him to tell him dental records matched those of his daughter.
Orange County Sheriff's Office public information Officer Jane Watrel confirmed Wednesday that the remains found in Bithlo were determined through forensic techniques to be Tia Bonta's.
Watrel said the case is now an active death investigation. Detective Peter Hernandez said the remains were skeletal remains and experts are examining them in an attempt to determine Tia Bonta's cause of death.
“From this point forward we’re conducting an active death investigation. We can’t stipulate the exact cause of death, that’s still under current examination,” Hernandez said.
News of the identification comes less than a week after deputies released photos of jewelry, including a silver ring with "MOM" and hearts engraved on the band, that was found with the body, in hopes that someone would recognize it.
Watrel and Hernandez said hundreds of tipsters called Crimeline after recognizing the jewelry.
“…That broke the case. People started to call, send pictures and it really helped us move this investigation forward,” Watrel said.
Kevin Bonta said his daughter's boyfriend bought the rings seen in the photos distributed by law enforcement.
“It’s something I expected because she would never just leave like that, especially since she has a kid,” Kevin Bonta said, adding that he was too distressed to provide any further comment.
Family members told deputies that Bonta was with James Dellafield at the Days Inn and he dropped her off at a home near Buck and Cleburne roads.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office identified Dellafield as a person of interest in the case weeks after Bonta disappeared. He has since been cleared.
Deputies said in November 2016 that Bonta was presumed dead. She was the mother of a baby boy who was less than 1 year old when she disappeared.