Oregon police are reportedly trying to determine if blood found in the apartment of a man who recently killed himself in jail matches that of the man’s missing ex-girlfriend — who had sought a restraining order against him before she vanished.
Puddles and smears of blood as well as bloody ropes were discovered in the Bend apartment of 31-year-old Bryan Michael Penner, an ex-boyfriend of missing Sara Gomez, according to the local newspaper there.
“We don’t know if it’s her blood,” Bend Police Chief Jim Porter told the Bend Bulletin. “We’re still waiting to hear back from the crime lab on that.”
Penner, the sole suspect in the 24-year-old Gomez’s February disappearance, hanged himself last month in Oregon’s Deschutes County Jail after he was arrested on Feb. 22 for violating the restraining order that Gomez had taken out against him.
“His death hurts us a little bit because we believe he had a lot of information in regards to where she might be located,” Police Lt. Clint Burleigh tells PEOPLE. “We want to bring closure to the family. We want to make sure we can find Sara. It is the No. 1 priority.”
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel echoed the sentiment and said that as the search for Gomez extended into weeks, it “became obvious” she would not be found alive.
“With Penner’s passing our chances of quickly finding Sarah plummeted,” he said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “I encourage everyone in Deschutes County to report to law enforcement any suspicious tire tracks, earthen mounds, or other potential evidence they might see on their property. Sarah’s family is counting on our community to bring her home.”
Burleigh was unable to confirm the Bulletin‘s reporting about the blood and rope discovered at Penner’s residence.
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Gomez, a supermarket cashier, was reported missing on Feb. 20 when she never made it home from work. Three months before she vanished, she had filed the restraining order against Penner.
According to the restraining order, which was obtained by the Bulletin, Penner wrote on Facebook that he would “stalk [her] job and pistol whip her” after they broke up.
He also allegedly talked about killing himself and had reportedly posted shots online of Gomez nude, the paper reported.
“I am concerned for my safety because of FB posts and Bryan coming into my work; he hasn’t received mental health counseling after attempted suicide,” Gomez wrote in her request for the restraining order, stating that Penner was also abusive, according to the Bulletin.
Since she disappeared, Gomez’s friends and family have posted flyers and organized searches in the surrounding areas with the hop of bringing her home.
It was unclear when Penner’s apartment was searched, leading to the reported discovery of blood, or how this information might affect the investigation into Gomez’s disappearance.
“We have a phenomenal community that wants to help,” Burleigh tells PEOPLE. “She was loved and appreciated by a lot of people. It is a community that cares for one another.”