Police, family await autopsy to see if body found in bayou is missing teacher's
CNN — Bouquets of flowers line the railing of the bridge above Bayou St. John in New Orleans.
Strangers throw rose petals into the water, or gather in circles -- hands clasped and heads bowed -- as they pray for Terrilyn Monette, a teacher missing for three months.
On Saturday, a diver with the Slidell Police Department -- volunteering to dive the waterways in the search for Monette -- found the teacher's Honda Accord in the bayou.
Inside was a decomposed body
While police believe it is that of Monette, they will await an autopsy Monday for a definite answer.
'I'm in shock'
Monette, 26, was last seen March 2 leaving Parlay's Dream Lounge in New Orleans, where she had been celebrating with friends her nomination for a "Teacher of the Year" award.
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 final answer.
"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.
A tireless search
In mid-March, an independent search and rescue team from Texas volunteer to comb the lagoons and waterways.
It discovered a car in the bayou, but it was later confirmed not to belong to Monette.
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, police Detective Daniel 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.
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From Janet DiGiacomo