Missing teen’s body found after she likely froze to death, authorities say

A body was found during a search near the missing teen's car, which went off an unplowed road
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 11:49 AM EST
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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY/Gray News) – Officials believe they found the body of a missing 17-year-old girl who they say died of hypothermia after getting in a car accident.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Office said they found a frozen body outside Tuesday and are waiting for autopsy results to confirm it’s Daniela Itzel Velazquez.

Velazquez’s mother reported her missing Sunday afternoon, around the same time a Wisconsin state trooper found Velazquez’s vehicle in a ditch. Shoes and Velazquez’s phone were found outside the car, and the keys and a wallet were found inside.

The road had not been plowed, and it appeared the car had drifted a few feet off the roadway, Capt. David Poteat said. Footprints were erased by blowing snow.

Investigators used drones, ATVs, snowmobiles and police K-9s to scour more than 37 acres. On Monday, a police K-9 found a piece of clothing east of the car, and the search focused on that area before the body was found on Tuesday. It was located about a quarter of a mile from the car.

Authorities said they believe at this time, pending an autopsy, that Velazquez died of hypothermia. The body was found with the arms clutched to the chest, as a person would do to keep warm.

“She was definitely not dressed for the weather, and being outside in conditions much like they are today for any extended period of time is going to result in fatality in a short period of time,” Poteat said.

Velazquez was last seen at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, and the last contact anyone is known to have had with her was a phone call to a friend in Florida at 11:23 p.m. Investigators said they believe her car went off Blake Road sometime between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday.

Poteat could only theorize that she left her shoes because they were full of snow after trying to get the car back on the road and removed clothing as hypothermia set in, a condition known as paradoxical undressing, when a person has hallucinations and removes their clothes due to a sensation of feeling hot.

“It’s hard to know what her thought process was,” Poteat said.

They don’t believe foul play was involved in the death.

Poteat also said deputies didn’t find any indication of a passenger in the car.

He said Velazquez was from Wisconsin but more recently lived in Florida and returned to the area last month.

“At this time, our sincere sympathy goes out to the family, Daniela’s friends,” Poteat said. “It’s a hard time for them, and they do ask privacy during this time.”