A body found buried in a wooded area of Farmingville has been identified as that of Eber Lopez, the Greenport teen last seen leaving a North Fork party more than a month ago, Suffolk police said Thursday.
Lopez, who was 15 or 16 years old - police and relatives gave different ages - went missing on the night of June 6 from a christening party in Southold. Witnesses said a group of men thought to be gang members confronted the teen at the party. Police say he had no known gang affiliations. They would not elaborate on a possible motive.
Lopez was initially reported as a missing person, but Suffolk County Police Department detectives and Southold police quickly concluded that he likely met with foul play.
"Dios mio," said his mother, Juana Maria Lopez, 38, as she broke into tears. Eber's grandfather, Vidal de Jesus Lopez, 58, said in Spanish, "We had hope that the body wasn't Eber. We've lost that hope."
Fitzpatrick declined to provide further details about the state of the body or information provided by the county medical examiner, citing the investigation.
On June 18, detectives used a canine unit to find a body buried about 100 feet from Expressway Drive North, west of Old Medford Road in Farmingville. Police said information they gathered during the investigation of Lopez's disappearance led them to search the spot. The remains were so decomposed that the medical examiner had to identify the body using DNA matched to a relative.
Lopez's uncle, Felicito Morales, 28, said his nephew was not a gang member and that the party where his nephew was last seen was in the home of a family that Lopez didn't know very well. People who were in the area of the party later told detectives they heard gunshots.
Eber Lopez lived in Greenport for two years and worked in a Cutchogue deli. He came to this country with relatives.
Fitzpatrick said homicide detectives continue to follow leads in the investigation into Lopez's death and called the case "active and ongoing." With Bart Jones