MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Investigators believe they have found the body of a missing 2-year-old girl in southern Minnesota, about 250 miles away from her Milwaukee home.

Around 7 p.m. Friday, investigators said an off-duty public works employee was driving along Highway 218 about 15 miles north of Austin, Minnesota when he noticed something that just didn’t look right.

“Just off the shoulder was a blanket. Inside that blanket and wrapped in there was the body of a child we believe is that of Noelani,” Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released an update Saturday, preliminarily identifying the body as that of Noelani, saying she died of blunt force trauma to the head.

The bright-eyed girl, just two years into her life, went missing on Monday in Milwaukee shortly after her mother Sierra Robinson was shot and killed.

Police found 34-year-old Dariaz Higgins in a Milwaukee motel on Wednesday. They are still determining what charges to file, but so far accuse him of killing Sierra and abducting Noelani.

(credit: CBS)

“She had been there for quite some time, which is consistent with the suspect’s time when he was in that area in Minnesota. That’s consistent with where we believe we are going with the investigation,” Morales said.

It’s an investigation that, with one piece of information, went from hopeful to heartbreaking. Around the same time the public works employee found the body that matches Noelani’s description, 266 miles away, friends and family gathered to mourn the loss of her mother, asking anyone who would listen to bring Noelani home.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says they also conducted a search warrant early Saturday morning in an Austin hotel, where they believe Higgins stayed at some point in the past week. They’re still trying to determine who killed Noelani, when she died, and where.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is currently awaiting formal identification and autopsy results.

A GoFundMe account has been set up for the family.

Christiane Cordero

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