The mystery of what happened to a 73-year-old Hemet woman with cognitive problems who disappeared last summer was solved following identification of remains found near Mountain Center, authorities said Thursday.

Rosario Garcia had been missing since July 7, prompting multiple organized searches to search for her in remote areas of the San Bernardino National Forest.

According to Riverside County sheriff’s Sgt. James Burton, earlier this month, deputies were sent to a previously unexplored location near Mountain Center, where trekkers had spotted what they believed to be human remains.

The lawmen found the body and confirmed it was that of a woman, and a short distance away, they located items belonging to Garcia, Burton said.

He said the remains could not be positively identified at the scene, culminating in a coroner’s investigation that verified they were Garcia’s.

“There is no evidence of foul play,” he said.

How and why Garcia ended up in the forest has yet to be explained. According to Burton, she suffered from complications likely stemming from either Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and on the morning she left home, she had intended to drive her Nissan Altima to a relative’s house in Hesperia.

However, instead of going north, Garcia steered east into the national forest and rugged terrain.

Burton said her car became “high-centered on a rough road” just off of Highway 74. It was unclear how far she walked or where she may have been trying to go after the vehicle became stuck.

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