A missing Bluffton woman's cellphone was discovered soon after her disappearance, investigators say, and her family holds out hope Margarita Gonzalez-Almazan will be found unharmed.
The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office searched the Chechessee River bridge on S.C. 170 in Okatie on Monday evening after tracking the 47-year-old's cellphone to the location, Sgt. Robin McIntosh said. Gonzalez-Almazan was reported missing on Monday and is considered endangered, McIntosh added.
Deputies resumed their search of the area Tuesday morning, using K-9 units and Marine/Beach Patrol boats but uncovered no other evidence, McIntosh said.
Sheriff P.J. Tanner would not say whether investigators had turned the phone over to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division or another agency.
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Gonzalez-Almazan was last seen early Sunday with her boyfriend, Osman Galicia-Escobedo, 40, of Bluffton, after a party she hosted at the Shady Glen community center.
Deputies want to question Galicia-Escobedo, who has not been seen since the party and reportedly argued with Gonzalez-Almazan several times in recent weeks. He might be driving a gray, four-door 2001 Dodge Stratus with S.C. license plate DMR 686, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Investigators had no update on the case Thursday, McIntosh said. Tanner declined to say whether the Sheriff's Office has recovered Galicia-Escobedo's cellphone.
"We won't be discussing any other evidence at this time," McIntosh said, citing the ongoing investigation.
Relatives of Gonzalez-Almazan say they are not discouraged. They have gathered at her son's home since her disappearance, drawing strength from each other and hoping for good news.
"We have been, the family, trying to be as tough as we can be," 28-year-old Jonathan Manrique said. "My mother doesn't deserve to be going through anything like this."
Manrique said he's been comforted that his mother, who owns her own jewelry business, has many friends and a large family in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island. In the next few days, they plan to gather at a local church to pray that deputies bring Gonzalez-Almazan home.
"We're trying to be together as much as we can," he said. "I'm not giving up hope."
Anyone with information regarding the couple's whereabouts can call Cpl. B. Cooler at 843-255-3423, Capt. B. Bromage at 843-816-8013, Crime Stoppers at 888-CRIME-SC (274-6372), or text the word TIPSC with a message to CRIMES (274637).
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.