DALLAS — Police in Dallas announced early Tuesday night that a body found under the Dowdy Ferry Bridge is that of a mother who has been missing since Dec. 29, 2015.
"It's bitter sweet," said Wendy Lopez, the cousin of 34-year-old Marisol Espinosa. "We've waited so long just to have her back, and now we do. Not in the way we would've preferred it, but it is closure. Now we can lay her to rest."
She stood with two of Espinosa's children, who both wore shirts printed with an image of their mother.
"As far as the next chapter, making sure that the people or the person who did it to her, which you know we have our feelings about particular people, making sure that whoever did it, pays," she continued.
Lopez's voice cracked as she talked about Espinosa's mother, Rosemary.
"She's tough," she said as she held one of Espinosa's daughters in her arms. "She's not well. She's hurting to not have her daughter back."
A mother of three, Espinosa was last seen by her boyfriend, Faustino Valdez.
Valdez told authorities when he saw her last, she was headed to her job as a hairdresser at NorthPark Center. On January 1, after investigators found her Chevy Tahoe abandoned in a Dallas apartment complex, police changed the case from critical missing to endangered person.
Body found under Dowdy Ferry Bridge in Dallas
A dog rescue group found the body Sunday while searching the area known as a dumping ground.
"In light of the identification made, the Dallas Police Department has reclassified the investigation into Marisol Espinosa’s disappearance as a homicide investigation," read a statement from police released at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Police say the medical examiner is working to identify Espinosa's cause of death.
While Valdez hasn't been a suspect in the case, police say he's wanted on two felony theft cases. He was last seen on January 1. In a court order, prosecutors called Valdez a "wanted fugitive and flight risk." A judge also ordered that Valdez have no contact with the Espinosa family or his two children, who have been placed with Marisol's mother.
"My emotions have gone from being hurt and sad to more angry," Lopez said. "And it's just going to get worse. Until my cousin is brought to justice, it's going to stay like that."
Monday, Lopez went to the spot where Espinosa was found. She said she knew in her gut the body found under the bridge was her cousin.