Body of SI teen found in New Jersey

April 4, 2008 8:42:48 PM PDT
A body found Thursday in shallow grave in New Jersey has been identified as a missing teen from Staten Island. Jessica Tush disappeared Wednesday from the Staten Island mall where she worked. She was found in Bass River Township, a remote area of Burlington, New Jersey.

State police confirm that the body was identified as Tush. It was reportedly found by hikers, who discovered the freshly-dug grave Thursday morning and alerted the authorities.

"They found my baby," a tearful Dina Tush said. "It was too late. But at least I have her and I know what happened to her and I'm not wondering that I can't find her. You know what that means. Because not knowing is worse."

The medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death, but authorities say preliminary investigations reveal signs of strangulation.

Authorities tell Eyewitness News that Tush had a stormy relationship with her boyfriend, Thomas Pauline. In the days before her disappearance, she reportedly came home with bruises on her face. Family members say she said those bruises came at the hands of Paulino, who has retained legal council.

No charges have yet been filed.

Although friends originally believed Tush was abducted, authorities say there is no indication she was taken by force. They believe she knew her assailant.

"Jessica was last seen at BCBG at 2 p.m. on Wednesday on April 2," Dina Tush wrote on her dughter's MySpace page. "She was supposed to go to AJ's Wake at Bedell. Did anyone see her there??? Has any one seen her today or even yesterday? Please it is very important to get in touch with us immediately."

Staten Island detectives are participating in the investigation.