Las Vegas homicide detectives were investigating late Thursday whether a woman's body found in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is that of 31-year-old Deborah Flores-Narvaez, who has been missing since Dec. 12.
A source familiar with the investigation said the burned victim and the missing burlesque dancer share a similar body type. The source said there was nothing at the scene to indicate that the dead woman was not Flores-Narvaez.
Las Vegas police spokesman Jay Rivera said the body was discovered Thursday morning by a couple hiking in a desert area near Kingman Wash, about a mile from the O'Callaghan-Tillman Bridge.
The body was found in Arizona, but Las Vegas homicide detectives responded to the scene. Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy said that his office will autopsy the body today but that the Mohave County medical examiner will be present. He gave no timeline for making an identification but said his office would work as fast as possible to be able to notify the victim's family.
It has been almost two weeks since the 31-year-old dancer was reported missing, a day after she failed to show up for a Dec. 13 performance in the Luxor show "Fantasy." Three days later, police found her Chevrolet Prizm abandoned in the northeast area of the valley, its license plates removed. The disappearance of the woman has made national headlines in part because her family has made high-profile appeals for help in finding her.
Police have questioned several people and have searched the home of a former boyfriend but had few leads until the grim discovery near Lake Mead.
In recent days, detectives had focused on Jason "Blu" Griffith, the performer's ex-boyfriend because she accused him of beating her in October. Flores-Narvaez also told police she was pregnant with Griffith's child at that time.
Griffith has told detectives that Flores-Narvaez visited him at his home on the night she went missing, but the conversation was brief and she seemed OK before leaving his residence, police said.
Investigators have searched Griffith's North Las Vegas home and his car, said Patrick McDonald, an attorney representing Griffith in a felony domestic violence charge stemming from the Oct. 22 incident.
McDonald said Griffith volunteered for an interview with detectives and is most concerned about Flores-Narvaez' "whereabouts and her well-being."
Police are looking into the other relationships that have gone sour. One was with another professional dancer, Jamile McGee.
In April, Flores-Narvaez won a $250,000 civil judgment against McGee, whom she accused of beating her, according to court records. Court records do not indicate that she has received any money from the judgment.
Flores-Narvaez filed a lawsuit against McGee in August 2009. According to court documents, Flores-Narvaez alleged she suffered scarring as a result of a June 2009 assault by McGee in which he kicked her stomach, dragged her from her car and held her "hostage in his apartment while continuing to beat (her)."
Damages were awarded to Flores-Narvaez because the scars cost her modeling jobs, leaving her with only a steady income of $40,000 per year from dancing part-time in a local show, according to court documents.
McGee is a professional dancer who has been featured in music videos and television reality shows and who appeared in 2009 in Wayne Brady's "Making $%&* Up" show at The Venetian.
In court papers, McGee's attorney, Scott Holper, called the allegation frivolous and offered to settle for $1.
Holper said Thursday that there were never any medical or police reports to support Flores-Narvaez's allegations and that she won the case only because his client ran out of money and could not continue fighting it.
McGee was never prosecuted by law enforcement, according to court records.
Holper said McGee left Las Vegas more than a year ago.
Flores-Narvaez's attorney in the civil case, Luke Ciciliano, did not respond to messages left at his office.
Meanwhile her sister, Celeste Flores-Narvaez of Georgia, is staying in Las Vegas to help in the search. She said she plans on remaining here until the dancer is found.
"My nerves are shot. It feels like it's all been a bad dream and I'm trying to wake up," said Celeste Flores-Narvaez, who sounded emotionally exhausted during a Thursday telephone interview.
Celeste Flores-Narvaez said she is helping police organize a list of friends her sister had in Las Vegas. She added that private investigators have volunteered to help.
Friends and family members said she would never leave without telling her parents or employer that she was going.
Flores-Narvaez moved to Las Vegas to pursue dreams of dancing and soon was hired at some of the Strip's poshest nightclubs: Jet at The Mirage and Haze at Aria, among others.
She grew up in Puerto Rico before moving to Maryland, where she studied international business and law. She served as an ambassador for the Washington Redskins in 2007, a nonperforming position that sent her into the community.
Celeste Flores-Narvaez said she called a Las Vegas police detective Thursday afternoon after hearing about the body found near Lake Mead. The detective gave no indication whether the body is thought to be her sister, she said.
Celeste Flores-Narvaez said she was not allowing herself to think negatively.
"I'm still hopeful I'm bringing my sister home for the holidays safe and sound," she said.
Debbie Flores-Narvaez is described as Hispanic, 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing about 120 pounds.
Anyone with information on her whereabouts is urged to call the Metropolitan Police Department's missing persons detail at 828-2907.