Fresno police reported Monday that the body of a person believed to be Zillabel Jane Friesen, 81, missing since July, has been recovered from a remote area in the Sierra National Forest. Chief Jerry Dyer said that it is not believed that Friesen was the victim of foul play.
Friesen went missing July 21 about 9 a.m. after she left her home to run errands. She was last seen on a video camera buying gasoline for her Green Ford Escape at a Foods Co on Kings Canyon Road.
Friesen’s family, who appeared with the chief at a news conference, said she was an adventurer who liked to explore different roads and areas. It is possible that she became ill or disoriented while driving in the area of Trimmer Springs Road and Big Creek Road near Pine Flat lake.
Dyer said 15 detectives from the department’s missing persons unit tried to find Friesen after she was reported missing July 22, spending more than 500 hours in the effort. A statewide Silver Alert also was issued. Detectives also pored over Friesen’s social media and financial records.
Sunday about 12:30 p.m., police were notified that firefighters found the SUV about 13 miles north of Trimmer Springs. Skeletal remains and Friesen’s wallet also were found nearby.
The Fresno County Coroner’s Office is conducting DNA and dental analysis to positively identify remains. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.
Melaney Shaum, Friesen’s daughter, said her mother was an explorer who loved to read books and then visit areas described by the author.
“Mom loved to go out and drive and be in nature,” Shaum said. Friesen once took a ferry to Alaska and drove back to Fresno, traveling through most of the Western states in a weeks-long journey. Shaum added that it was very much like her mother to look at a road she had never been on and decide that she wanted to explore it.
Shaum praised the Police Department’s efforts to find her mother.
“Fresno police have been fantastic,” she said.