Remains found in Palm Beach County, Florida, have been identified as a 20-year-old Long Island woman who went missing in the city of Lake Worth in late April, authorities said.
Homicide detectives are investigating the death of Jenna Jacobsen, whose East Islip family said she was trying to kick her opioid habit when she left a New Jersey medical detox center in late April after being lured to another one in Florida, with a promise of recovering among "sunshine and palm trees."
"She was trying to get to a good place and she ended up in a bad neighborhood," said her aunt, Jean Jacobsen, of East Islip.
Jacobsen's remains were found Thursday as her father, Chris Jacobsen, searched in Florida for his missing daughter, passing out flyers, talking to local media outlets and pleading for help on social media. He could not be reached for comment and was expected to return to Long Island on Tuesday.
The Palm Beach County sheriff's office said Jacobsen was last reported seen April 25 on South H Street in Lake Worth. Her skeletal remains were discovered off Southwinds Drive in the nearby town of Lantana, a spokeswoman said. The medical examiner has ruled that Jacobsen died of "undetermined means."
A June 2017 graduate of East Islip High School, Jacobsen had been in and out of treatment facilities, including on Long Island, Jean Jacobsen said.
Her aunt said Jacobsen wanted to be a veterinarian.
Jacobsen's family did not know she had checked herself into the New Jersey facility but her aunt said they have pieced together what happened from another patient there, a man who traveled with her to Florida.
According to her companion, a "patient broker" convinced them to go to a Florida facility and paid their airfare, the aunt said. In patient or "body brokering," brokers are paid to lure addicts to other facilities.
The aunt hopes her niece's death will educate others about patient brokering.
"She was a sweet young girl trying to get help and these patient or body brokers thrive on these people that are the weakest," Jean Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen and her friend found a treatment facility in Palm Beach County and waited at a convenience store in a bad part of Lake Worth to be picked up, the aunt said. But the pair caused a commotion, Jean Jacobsen said, and when police arrived, they found her companion had a warrant and arrested him, leaving her alone.
When the driver from the treatment facility arrived, Jacobsen had vanished, her aunt said.
Her remains were found by an access road to the county public health administration building off Interstate 95 and about a mile from where Jacobsen was last seen. The police spokeswoman said it remains unclear if Jacobsen was a victim of foul play.
The sheriff’s department is asking anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-458-8477.