A police dispatcher last seen alive leaving a party with her boyfriend shortly before Christmas was slain, authorities said Tuesday after confirming that a body found in the wilderness over the weekend was hers.
Dawna Natzke's death has been ruled a homicide, but investigators haven't determined exactly how or when she was killed, said her former boss, Hot Springs Village Police Chief Laroy Cornett.
"Our missing person's case has evolved into a homicide," he said, noting that the Garland County sheriff's office had taken over the investigation.
Police have not named any suspects in the case.
Natzke, a 46-year-old mother of three who had recently separated from her husband, was last seen leaving a Dec. 21 Christmas party with her boyfriend, Kevin Duck. She wasn't reported missing until Dec. 23, when she didn't show up to work.
According to police, Duck, 28, told investigators he and Natzke left the party and went to her home in Hot Springs Village, a gated community of some 13,000 residents about 35 miles west of Little Rock. When he woke up the next morning, Natzke was gone, he allegedly said.
Duck did not return telephone calls last week seeking comment, and his cell phone had been disconnected by Saturday.
Volunteer searchers came across Natzke's body in a forest about five miles from the wilderness area where her burned-out vehicle was found shortly after her disappearance.
Natzke's older sister, Vicki Hegyi, told The Associated Press that Cornett and a sheriff's deputy visited her mother's home on Tuesday to break the news to the family. She said the family had assumed the body was her baby sister's.
"It was a formality anyway," Vicki Hegyi said. "We knew it was Dawna."
She said Cornett and the deputy didn't discuss the condition of her sister's body when it was found.
"My stomach has been in my throat ... . Every detail that comes out is more heinous," she said.
Facebook pages related to Natzke's disappearance have drawn hundreds of followers. One page urged followers to report anything they may know about what happened to Natzke.
"There is at least one person who knows what happened and many more who, without realizing it, have the information needed to `crack this case,'" the page said.
Natzke lived in a community with security gates, but they weren't equipped with video surveillance.
Associated Press writer Jeannie Nuss contributed to this report.