EL DORADO COUNTY -- The body of Alyssa Byrne of Petaluma, missing since New Year's Day, was found Friday morning behind a snow berm near Lake Tahoe, law enforcement officials said.
Officials said they did not suspect foul play in Byrne's death, but that they were continuing to investigate. The location where her body was found suggests she was headed in the wrong direction if she was walking from the site of a concert to the hotel where she was staying, according to one investigator.
Byrne, 19, a student at Santa Rosa Junior College, vanished New Year's Eve while attending the three-day SnowGlobe music festival at Lake Tahoe Community College.
El Dorado County sheriff's Lt. Paul Van Arnum said Byrne's body was spotted around 8:30 a.m., behind a 4-foot snow berm about 10 feet off Pioneer Trail, by a water district worker in a truck. Van Arnum said there were no outward signs of trauma, but a forensic autopsy would be performed in Sacramento to pinpoint the cause of Byrne's death and to determine if drugs or alcohol were in her system.
The location is actually the opposite direction of a route Byrne would have used between the scene of the festival, and the Horizon Casino Hotel, in Stateline, Nev., where Byrne had been staying with friends, Van Arnum added. If she walked to that spot, she had headed southwest on Pioneer Trail when she should have gone northeast, Van Arnum said.
The area, about half a mile from the site of the festival, was one of the first locations searchers had planned to canvass Friday morning when they heard Byrne had been found, Van Arnum said.
Investigators are still trying to determine where Byrne went after she was last seen by friends. Conflicting reports from witnesses place Byrne at different locations after she left the festival.
Douglas County Undersheriff Paul Howell said that other concert attendees had reported that they chosen to walk to their hotels rather than wait in long lines for shuttle buses, and that Byrne may have meant to head back on foot as well. The distance from the venue to the hotel is "not that far if you're dressed (for cold weather)," and though it was near freezing at the time of her disappearance, it was not snowing, he added.
One friend, however, said before Byrne's body was found that she had called him shortly before her disappearance, saying that she was on a shuttle bus back to the hotel.
Byrne's body was dressed in clothing consistent with descriptions given to authorities, Howell added. He noted reports that Byrne may have had a falling out with a friend shortly before her disappearance, according to her Twitter account, but said "that was not an event that we ... think was a significant issue at this time."
Byrne lived with her mother and father in Petaluma. She worked as a hostess at the Cattlemens restaurant in Petaluma and hoped to become a paramedic-firefighter, according to her mother, Kim Miller-Byrne.
Byrne's father, Kevin, and some of her friends had traveled to the area to help look for her after she was reported missing.
After hearing the news that Alyssa had been found, Kevin was "doing as well as could be expected," Van Arnum said.
Before Alyssa was found, her father said he regretted not checking out the music festival more closely, fearing it might be the site of heavy drug use.
"Maybe she partied harder than normal," he said. "I don't know."
Friends who saw Byrne shortly before she went missing said she wasn't acting quite herself when she unexpectedly left the concert an hour before midnight and, later, passed on a chance to visit with old high school friends at her hotel less than an hour into the new year.
Santa Rosa Press-Democrat staff writers Mary Callahan, Paul Payne and Lori A. Carter contributed to this report.