Body Found in South Mountain Reservation Is Identified

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The body of a woman discovered by a dog walker in the South Mountain Reservation Tuesday has been identified.

Deja Rodriguez (Facebook)

Deja Rodriguez (Facebook)

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced Friday that the woman was identified as Deja Rodriguez, 24, of Newark.

Family members had reported Rodriguez missing on February 16, said Essex County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Katherine Carter in a phone interview.

Rodriguez’s body was found in a wooded section of the park located in Millburn.

A final ruling on the cause of death is pending toxicology results, but the Medical Examiner has determined it does not appear to be a homicide. “It is not considered a homicide,” said Carter. Toxicology reports could take “quite a while” to be completed, she said, and might take months.

Rodriguez was last seen in the area of South Orange Avenue and South 10th Street, according to a March 24 article on

“I’m glad it’s one step closer to closing an unsolved case,” said Ken Siegel, the Maplewood man who had discovered the body, after hearing the news.

credit Ken Siegel

credit Ken Siegel

Siegel told The Village Green on Wednesday that had been walking his dog in the reservation when he discovered a tree root that looked different from others. He looked into the hole where the roots were upturned.

“That’s when I saw the body,” said Siegel, who said he was shocked and stunned. “I asked myself, am I really seeing this?”

Siegel called 911 and was interviewed by detectives. There were at least 30 or more responders, said Siegel, including the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, Millburn and Maplewood Police, as well as paramedics and EMTs.

Siegel said the teams were setting up to retrieve the body by the time he was allowed to leave the scene. Detectives told him there were “lots of missing persons” and that this body might be one of them.

“It was pretty surreal,” said Siegel, “I’m not sure it really has sunk in.” He continued, “This was obviously someone’s daughter, and I hope it gives someone closure.”

Siegel had only recently started taking his dog to the reservation. Despite the trauma of the event, he said he would continue to go to the reservation and go off trail. “I don’t feel personally threatened [there]…I don’t see [the reservation] as dangerous.”


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