Updated at 7:03 p.m.: Hannah Brim’s family released this statement Thursday night:
We would like to thank the Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Department for their work related to our daughter’s disappearance. We would also like to thank our friends and the community for your prayers and support.
We appreciate your concern and would request that your respect our privacy during this difficult time and will not be giving interviews.
Original story, Feb. 11, 2016 at 5:39 p.m.
Police are conducting a recovery operation for Hannah Brim, 23, who was reported missing on Jan. 19 and is believed to be dead.
“Through our investigation, we have obtained some forensic evidence that leads us to believe that, unfortunately, Ms. Brim is no longer alive,” Gainesville police spokesman Ben Tobias said at a press conference Thursday in the Orange Heights community, across the street from the investigation’s command post.
Authorities are continuing to look for additional evidence, including Brim’s body, Tobias said.
They are speaking with Nelson Armas, 28, who is serving time at the Alachua County Jail on an unrelated domestic battery charge. Armas is believed to be the last person to see Brim alive, and all evidence is leading to him as a person of interest, Tobias said.
The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office went to Armas’ home Monday with a search warrant, office spokesman Sgt. Brandon Kutner said at the press conference.
“During the execution of that search, we were able to obtain several pieces of forensic evidence — both physical and electronic evidence — which led us to where we are today,” he said.
Brim had resided at the Florida Motel in Gainesville for about a month before her disappearance, but her lease expired on Jan. 22.
Brim had been pregnant for five months when she went missing. She often talked with her mother, Susan Zehner, but stopped suddenly from Jan. 19 on.
Before she went missing, Brim was driving a silver Toyota registered under both her and her mom’s name.
Detectives have identified specific areas in Alachua County where Brim’s body might be. Because the locations aren’t in the city limits, Gainesville police requested that the sheriff’s office conduct searches of specific areas.
“Mr. Armas resides in this general area,” Kutner said. “Mr. Armas does have a connection with Ms. Brim, as well, and … the totality of information we have uncovered at this point is why we’re concentrating our search in this area today.”
The sheriff’s office spent all of Wednesday searching around 75 to 100 acres of wooded areas in the county’s Melrose and Orange Heights areas, and they are continuing their search because of the magnitude and density of the search sites, police said.
“The areas that we are searching are heavily wooded, and they have a very rough topography,” Kutner said. “Some areas are only accessible to three wheelers and off-road vehicles.”
About 150 law-enforcement officers are assisting with the investigation.
Gainesville police and the Union County Sheriff’s Office are searching by horseback, and other agencies, including the sheriff’s offices from Miami-Dade and Brevard counties, brought in bloodhounds and cadaver dogs.
Police continued to search throughout Thursday’s daylight hours, Kutner said.
“Based on what we find today and what the progress is by the end of the day,” he said, “we will make a determination on how long it continues or if we regroup and look at another area.”
“It’s all dependent on what’s found out there.”
Authorities are asking that anyone with additional information contact the Gainesville Police Department at 352-955-1818 or text the keyword GPDFL, plus a tip, to 274637 to provide information anonymously.