Authorities on Thursday arrested a 16-year-old boy believed to have been in a romantic relationship with another teenager whose body was found Wednesday night in the bushes of the San Gabriel River Trail in the South El Monte area.
Investigators received a tip early Thursday that a friend of the victim, identified by the coroner’s office as 17-year-old Jeremy Sanchez, may have been involved in his death, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department stated in a news release.
The unidentified teenage suspect was arrested following a search of his home and booked on suspicion of murder at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, the Sheriff's Department stated. Lt. John Corina said the teen was one of two friends who had found Sanchez's body.
Sanchez, a South El Monte High School student, was first reported missing when his father learned the teen failed to show up for school Wednesday morning.
About 4 p.m., Sanchez’s body was discovered by family members in the area of Thienes Avenue and Parkway Drive, on the border with Avocado Heights. He was fully clothed and lying face down.
It appeared Sanchez had been stabbed and died at the scene, according to the Sheriff's Department.
Investigators said they have not yet recovered a murder weapon but believe a knife was used.
Corina said investigators are working to determine a motive in the fatal stabbing. Friends and investigators at the scene said the suspect was Sanchez's boyfriend, and that the victim was ending their relationship.
Officials do not believe anyone else was involved.
Detectives are still interviewing friends of both boys and examining phone records, but officials said they expect the suspect will be arraigned next Monday.
Students and staff at South El Monte High School were just learning about his death Thursday. Grief counselors will be made available to students wishing to talk.
“Jeremy was a well-known student here. … I believe he played baseball, football, wrestling … a year-round athlete,” El Monte Union High School District Superintendent Edward Zuniga said.
Dozens of classmates and family members gathered a short distance from where his body was found for a vigil Thursday night.
Sanchez's godmother, Christina Amigon, struggled to speak through tear as she questioned the killer's motive.
“I want to know why they took him from us," she said. "Why? Why would you do this to him? He was a good kid.”
Jarviz Godinez, a teammate on the football team, told KTLA that Sanchez's death didn't hit him until Thursday.
“Just this morning, it all came to me. I just fell apart," Godinez said. He described Sanchez as a "great friend" who was always smiling and cracking jokes.
“He was my quarterback, I was his go-to receiver," Godinez said.
Kevin Acencio, also on the school football team, said it was a devastating loss.
"He was like a little brother to me," Acencio said. "He meant everything, he would always put a smile on my face.”
Another friend and teammate, Joseph Rodriguez, said he remembered hanging out with Sanchez.
“I can’t believe that happened to him. I’m so sad about it … it’s crazy,” Rodriguez said.
A GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral expenses described Sanchez as "full of energy."
"We have no words to describe the grief that their family is experiencing right now," the family said in the page.
KTLA's Cindy Von Quednow contributed to this story.