Teen Found Dead in Ga. Woods Came to U.S. for Better Life, But Was Killed After Refusing Sex Work: Family

Sarai Llanos Gomez moved to Atlanta for a waitressing job, but was asked to be a sex worker instead. After she refused, she was found dead, her family says

Sarai Llanos Gomez
Sarai Llanos Gomez. Photo: Facebook

Sarai Llanos Gomez was a young Ecuadorian woman who came to America last year seeking a better life.

According to her mother, the 19-year-old single mother of two moved to the Atlanta area in hopes of finding a waitressing job so she could send money back to her family. But those dreams ended in tragedy last month when her body was found in a wooded area in Hall County, Ga. Authorities say she'd been murdered.

"Ms. Gomez's body was found on Paradise Point Road on June 20, 2022," the sheriff's office said in a statement on Tuesday. "Investigators determined Ms. Gomez was a victim of murder; however, there was nothing at the scene that immediately pointed to her identity. The ongoing investigation, including the release of a composite GBI sketch of the victim, led to her positive identification this week."

Authorities say that they're looking for a motive in the killing — but those who knew her believe that she may have been killed after turning down work as a sex worker.

According to Telemundo, Gomez had moved from Ecuador to Chicago in 2021 and lived with family members while working at various restaurants. She had recently moved to Atlanta after receiving a job offer to work as a waitress in a hotel.

In an interview with 11 Alive, Luis Veintimilla with the Ecuadorian Consulate said that the move to Atlanta might have cost Gomez her life.

"From the little information we have, we know she was living alone," Veintimilla told the station. "She didn't have many friends here, but she did in Chicago. She had moved here to make more money as a waitress."

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But Veintimilla tells the station that the job was not what she was promised — but was instead a job as a sex worker.

On the day before she vanished, Gomez called her mother and said that she had turned down the work. It was the last time her family heard from her.

"Unfortunately, this is such a painful event for the family and for us, and now it's a waiting game until we get more details," Veintimilla told 11 Alive.

On June 30 — before Gomez was identified — authorities released a sketch of a man who they said might be a person of interest in her death. They gave no further details, and the Hall County Sheriff's office tells PEOPLE that they have no named suspects at this time.

While investigators figure out what happened to Gomez, her family is trying to get her body returned to Ecuador for a proper burial.

"They want to send her body back to me in ashes," her mother, Gardenia Gomez, tells 11 Alive. "I want her body. How else will I know it's really her?"

Anyone with information regarding the case is urged to contact the Hall County Sheriff's Office at 770-531-6900.

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