Missing Georgia Elementary Teacher Found Dead in Mexico: She 'Made a Beautiful Impact in This World'

"She was the most caring teacher to all of her students and her first-grade babies will miss her dearly," a loved one wrote in a GoFundMe tribute

Alexa Morales
Alexa Morales. Photo: GoFundMe

A missing Georgia elementary school teacher was found dead this week in Mexico, where she was last seen on Saturday, Oct. 30, multiple outlets report.

Alexandra Morales, 24, taught first grade at Benefield Elementary School in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and the school's principal alerted parents in a Tuesday email (obtained by WGCL, WXIA and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) that Morales didn't return as expected from a trip to Guadalajara, Mexico.

The school official said there was an active police investigation into her disappearance and added, "Thank you for your support of our students and staff during this difficult time. I ask that you please keep Ms. Morales and her family in your thoughts and prayers, with hopes that she safely returns home."

Family members confirmed Wednesday, however, that Morales was found dead on Tuesday. Her cause of death is unknown at this time. According to WSB-TV, authorities said one person has been detained in connection to her death, though no other details were given.

A spokesperson for the Gwinnett County Police Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

On a GoFundMe page set up in her honor, a loved one wrote, "It comes with a heavy heart to share that Alexandra Morales is no longer with us. We appreciate all of your help and efforts during this challenging time."

"Alexa was adored by her parents and loved by her two brothers. She had a passion for adventure and traveling around the world was her joy," they added. "She was the most caring teacher to all of her students and her first-grade babies will miss her dearly. She was a loyal friend to many and a proud Hermana of our sorority, Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc. Alexa Morales made a beautiful impact in this world and we will carry her memory in our hearts forever."

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Her friend and former classmate Yessica Ortero told WXIA, "[I] never would have thought she was going to be found dead. You don't— you don't expect that. I knew she was going to a concert because she had been posting about it. I don't know, I'm still in shock. You know, it's sad."

A parent named Maria Palacios told WGCL about explaining the death to her daughter, 6, who had Morales as a teacher.

"She was so natural at it and the kids loved her. They had so much fun," said Palacios, adding, "Before I could get the words out, my daughter was crying already. I had to respond, explaining what it means to not come back, that Ms. Morales was not coming back."

"To have a Latina bilingual teacher was really important to her. She was the first teacher she identified with personally, and it was the first teacher my daughter said, 'I want to be a teacher like Ms. Morales,' " Palacios said of her child. "I just hope her family knows how inspirational and impactful she was to her students."

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