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Sex offender arrested after remains of missing mom found burned in a barrel

An Illinois sex offender is accused of murdering a young mother whose burned remains were discovered in a barrel, WLS-TV reports.

Prosecutors on Friday charged 42-year-old Peter Zabala with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the death of 25-year-old Ashley Tucker.

Zabala also faces two counts of concealing a homicide.

Authorities reportedly found Tucker’s remains last week inside a burned barrel in Lockport Township, Illinois, which is southwest of Chicago. But the Will County coroner’s office could not identify the body, which had “severe thermal damage,” until tattoo comparison was used to confirm her identity.

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The 5-foot-3-inch woman weighed about 120 pounds and had the names “CLEO” tattooed on one wrist and “MONA” on another.

Tucker had been missing since Oct. 13 after she left a party at her father’s house, according to WGN-TV. She was the mother of a 4-year-old daughter.

Her remains were located on property owned by a relative of Zabala. He was subsequently arrested on Oct. 26 and was charged one week later.

“The investigation has led detectives to believe that Zabala was the last known person to see Ashley Tucker prior to her disappearance, within the vicinity of where some of her items were located,” investigators said in a statement when he was arrested. “Zabala also exhibited suspicious activity before and after Ashley was reported missing.”

Police were already looking for Zabala for alleged violations of the state’s sex offender registry act. He is facing additional charges of resisting an officer and unlawful restraint, court documents show.

A GoFundMe page has been established to help pay for Tucker’s funeral and burial costs.

To report information about the case, call Joliet Police Det. Tizoc Landeros at 815-482-5625 or the Julie Police Department Investigations Division at 815-724-3020.

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[Feature image: Ashley Tucker/Joliet Police]