Authorities have yet to officially identify a body found in a former Chicago man's trunk, but the family of a missing Steger woman is convinced it's their relative.
And that, they say, is a heartbreaking loss, given that Danielle Dennis-Towne, 18, was so focused and driven.
"All during her school years, there was never a time she didn't try to excel," said the young woman's uncle, Bob Anness.
Dennis-Towne had gone to North Carolina to visit Enrico Luciano Mascaro, a childhood friend, and his family. A nationwide alert was put out by police in Kitty Hawk after hikers discovered "suspicious" items in a nearby wooded area. Police have not said what those items were.
Mascaro's 1996 Ford Mustang was found more than 300 miles away in a parking lot in Clifton Forge, Va. A young woman's body was discovered in the trunk.
Mascaro was charged over the weekend with homicide and with being a fugitive from justice.
"She's come a long way, and she was going a lot further," said Dennis-Towne's grandmother, Geraldine Dennis, of Beecher. "She was going to go on, be an engineer and do something with the world that could be fantastic."
Dennis-Towne was a J.R.O.T.C. cadet and recent graduate of Bloom Trail High School, and she planned to attend Ripon College in Wisconsin to study engineering. Her family believes that she had a bright future in store, having overcome the loss of both parents at an early age to have success later in life.
Mascaro on Tuesday waived extradition, deciding to return willingly to North Carolina to face trial for murder. He's currently being held without bond at the Alleghany Regional Jail in Convington, Va.