"I want her back." Funeral held for 13-year-old girl found in desert

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"I want her back." Funeral held for 13-year-old girl found in desert

By Rikki Mitchell. CREATED Jul 18, 2014

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A grieving mother sits in the first row of a Catholic church. A mother who just six months ago almost lost her life, and now has to lay her daughter to rest.

Valerie Calonge is the surviving victim of a brutal New Year's Day attack in which two others were killed, including Valerie's boyfriend Patrick Balbastro.

Then in June, Valerie's 13-year-old daughter Maribel Gonzalez went missing, and three days later her body was found in a desert area near Avra Valley and Trico Roads.

The Pima County Sheriff's Department is investigating Maribel's death as suspicious.

On Friday, a funeral was held for Maribel at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

Maribel will be remembered for her friendly and funny personality, and to her mother Valerie, Maribel was a light in her darkest days.

"She was the driving force behind her will to survive," said Maribel's cousin who spoke at the funeral. "She always was telling her she had to get better that she needed to be better to come home. I don't think she ever realized just how much she meant to my Aunt Val."

Before Maribel's body was taken to East Lawn cemetery for burial, her mother clung to the coffin hoping for one more chance to say goodbye, at the same time saying "I want her back."


If you have any information surrounding Maribel's death, please call 911 or 88-CRIME.


Rikki Mitchell

Rikki Mitchell

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Rikki Mitchell is a proud University of Arizona grad and joined the KGUN9 team after graduation. Rikki reports for the evening newscasts.