NAGS HEAD, N.C. (AP) — A college-bound Illinois teen reported missing on a coastal vacation had hoped to join the military, according to relatives who were grieving Monday even though police hadn't confirmed a body found in a car trunk was hers.
Danielle Dennis-Towne, 18, was an active member of her high school's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps before graduating and was headed to Ripon College in Wisconsin, where she planned to study engineering, according to her grandmother.
"We're all just so sad," said Geraldine Dennis, of Beecher, Ill. "It's the worst nightmare a family can ever imagine."
Authorities in Clifton Forge, Va., arrested 19-year-old Enrico Luciano Mascaro, of Nags Head, N.C., on Friday after tracking him to a 1996 Ford Mustang that investigators say had a woman's body in the trunk. He was to be arraigned on a charge of being a fugitive from justice in a Virginia courthouse Tuesday.
Mascaro, who knew Dennis-Towne when they were younger, also faces a charge of homicide in Kitty Hawk, an idyllic vacation spot in North Carolina's Outer Banks, according to that town's police chief. It wasn't immediately clear Monday if he has a lawyer in either state.
Although police have not released the name of the victim, Kitty Hawk police had issued a nationwide alert Friday for Mascaro and Dennis-Towne, of Steger, Ill., south of Chicago, who was visiting Mascaro's family in the town of Nags Head, about 10 miles south of Kitty Hawk. The two had been reported missing by Mascaro's family, who had last seen the pair Thursday, according to Nags Head Chief of Police Kevin Brinkley.
"Enrico's parents were concerned that they had not come home," Brinkley said. "They could have stayed overnight somewhere at a beach party or something like that."
Police issued the alert after a call from a tipster reporting items in a wooded area of Kitty Hawk that were traced to the pair. Brinkley declined to specify what items had been found, but said they led police to believe that the two needed to be found immediately.
Dennis-Towne, who had just graduated from high school, loved horseback riding on her great-uncle's property in Wisconsin, and was looking forward to spending time at the beach in North Carolina before heading off to college, her grandmother said.
"She was a happy girl, a very happy girl, but not a wild girl by any means," Dennis said. "On school nights, she wanted to go to bed at 9 o'clock because she knew she had a full day in school."
Members of Mascaro's family declined to comment to a reporter who visited their Nags Head home, a two-story cottage a couple of blocks from the beach. It wasn't immediately clear when Mascaro moved to the Outer Banks, but the family's previous landlord said they had rented their old home on a Nags Head golf course for about two years before moving out in January.
Mascaro and Dennis-Towne became friends when his family lived in Illinois, Brinkley said. Dennis said other members of her family knew the Mascaros, but that she had never met them.
Associated Press writers Tom Breen in Raleigh, N.C., and Zinie Chen Sampson in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.