Investigators suspect someone slipped into the funeral home and removed Mott’s body from her casket between the end of her funeral at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 15 and the funeral home’s closing at 4:30 p.m., according to the San Antonio Express-News.
At the time, the body had been moved into a nearby hallway, where it was supposed to remain until it was time for it to be transferred for cremation, according to the Express-News.
Workers found the casket empty the next day, unleashing a frantic search for her body that remains unsuccessful, the Express-News reported.
Sgt. Javier Salazar told reporters that whoever pulled off the crime — a misdemeanor under San Antonio law — did so in daring fashion, entering the funeral home in broad daylight. There were no signs of forced entry. He noted that the building lacks security cameras and is open to the public.
“In my 22 years in law enforcement, this is the first time I have ever heard of this happening.”
Robert Tips, owner of Mission Park Funeral Chapels and a friend of the Mott family, told the Express-News that the thief may have been influenced by an ideological opposition to cremation, preferring that Mott’s body undergo a traditional burial instead.
“We feel very strongly that there’s a difference of opinion there,” he said.
Tips, who had known Mott since she was a little girl, told reporters that he is outraged by the body’s disappearance. He has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of Mott’s body and has promised to cooperate fully with the police investigation.
“I can’t believe this is happening to such dear friends of mine, and she’s a dear friend of mine,” Tips told reporters. “This is a person that I know. This is a person that I know, and I want her back.”
Salazar told reporters that, because of her illness, Mott hadn’t been expected to live beyond age 3, but her family watched her grow into a “vibrant, typical young girl,” according to the New York Daily News.
“It’s heartbreaking to see a family that went through all that with her…now being put through this before being able to go through mourning and get the closure any family needs,” Salazar said.
On Mott’s Facebook page, among the photos of her hanging out with loved ones and riding horses, friends have posted messages expressing their heartbreak over her death, as well as their anger over her missing remains.
“So disturbing and unbelievable that someone would do this,” one friend wrote. “RIP Julie and prayers to your family in this horrible time.”
“My dear Julie, the girls and I will not rest until you do,” another wrote. “It’s been a mean world without you. I love you more than life itself.”
Speaking to reporters several days earlier, Tim Mott, Julie’s father, delivered his own message.
“We just want our daughter’s remains returned so we can have some closure to our grief,” he said.