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Teen's death ruled accidental

By DAWNE LEIKER
dleiker@dailynews.net

The death of a Hays teenager whose body was found Monday afternoon near Big Creek has been determined by Ellis County Coroner Lyle Noordhoek to have been an accident.

The body of Hays High School senior Citlatli A. Armendariz, 18, was discovered during an intensive foot search by Ellis County law enforcement at approximately 3:30 p.m. Monday on the north side of Big Creek, less than a mile west of U.S. Highway 183.

An investigation by the Ellis County Sheriff's Department of the scene where Armendariz's body was located revealed she had apparently headed in a northwest direction from a residence at 1154 250th Ave. at approximately 9:30 p.m. Saturday and had fallen from a 6-foot embankment, falling head first onto the ice in Big Creek.

According to an Ellis County Sheriff's press release, after the fall, it was determined she crossed the creek and proceeded westbound along Big Creek, walking under the highway bridge and continuing westbound for approximately a quarter-mile where she was found.

An autopsy performed by Noordhoek reported the estimated time of death at 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Manner of death was determined accidental and cause of death was determined to be hypothermia due to the fall on ice and water while underdressed for weather conditions. Also contributing, the report said, was a cerebral contusion and head injury due to the fall.

The investigation, which is ongoing by the Ellis County Sheriff's Office, has not revealed any indication of foul play, a press release said.

Armendariz was reported missing Saturday after attending a party at 1154 250th Ave., less than a mile south of Hays. Last seen at 9:30 p.m., it was determined by law enforcement  she had either walked away or received a ride.

Officers searched the immediate area, then contacted people who had been at the party, still unclear whether Armendariz had left on foot or in a vehicle. Officers continued the search throughout the night and followed several leads.

The search and investigation continued Sunday, with volunteers searching the Big Creek area and fields along either side of U.S. Highway 183 within a mile of the residence. The Kansas Highway Patrol plane also was called in to assist in searching the area.

Assistance throughout the process was provided by the Hays Police Department, Kansas Highway Patrol, Hays Fire Department, Kansas Bureau of Investigation, some members of the Ellis County CERT team and area residents.