Autopsy confirms body found in bayou is that of missing Louisiana teacher

Story highlights

Police have told Terrilynn Monette's mother they found the car and a body, she says

A police diver has found a car with a body inside believed to be Monette, police say

Monette, 26, was last seen March 2 leaving a New Orleans bar

She was celebrating with friends a "Teacher of the Year" nomination

CNN —  

The decomposed body found this weekend in a Louisiana bayou was identified Monday as that of a teacher missing for three months, the New Orleans Police Department said.

The statement said Terrilynn Monette, who was last seen March 2, was identified through dental records. The death was ruled a drowning, and there were no signs of trauma to the body, police said.

On Saturday, a diver with the Slidell Police Department who was volunteering to dive the waterways in the search for Monette found her Honda Accord in the bayou.

‘I’m in shock

Monette’s mother, Toni Enclade, told CNN that investigators have notified her the car has been found, but not whether the body is her daughter.

“To know that she could have possibly been there for three months,” she said, overcome with emotion.

Enclade said she does not know when she will be given a definitive answer by authorities.

“I can’t even begin to go there right now,” she said. “I’m in shock. I can’t believe this. I just can’t believe this.”

Authorities have focused a large part of their search efforts on the waterways because Monette would have had to have driven across the bayou to get from the bar to her home.

Authorities have focused a large part of their search efforts on the waterways because Monette would have had to drive across the bayou to get from the bar to her home.

Devoted teacher vanishes without a trace

In mid-March, an independent search and rescue team from Texas volunteer to comb the lagoons and waterways.

Family and friends of Monette put up a billboard in New Orleans and created a Facebook page, “We Love You Terrilynn Monette,” to help generate tips in the search for Monette.

The diver who found the car and body, Slidell Police Officer Mark Michaud, has been “working closely with the Monette family” because of his expertise in diving recoveries, Seuzeneau said.

When Monette, of Long Beach, California, learned of the “teachNOLA” program, which sends educators to New Orleans to teach in impoverished areas, she packed her bags and headed to Louisiana.

“I always wanted to be a teacher, and what better place to teach than New Orleans, where passionate teachers are needed most?” she said in a 2011 video obtained by CNN affiliate WDSU.

In her first year of teaching second grade at Woodland West Elementary School, Monette turned one of the lowest-performing classes into one of the highest achieving.

It earned her a “Teacher of the Year” nomination in her school district.

CNN’s Scott Thompson and Don Lemon contributed to this report.