CEDAR CITY — The case of a missing St. George woman who was found dead last weekend in a remote area of southern Utah is now being investigated as a homicide.

On Aug. 23, police received a call that a body had been located in western Iron County. Investigators determined the woman’s body “had been in the area for some time,” the Iron County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

After being transported to the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office, the woman was identified as Stevie Shay Wilkerson, 26. She had been missing from St. George since Aug. 9.

Wilkerson had last been seen leaving the Claridge Inn, 1187 S. Bluff, according to St. George police.

Her cousin, Angie Golish, said she was an animal lover that everyone described as having “a big heart, not a mean bone in her body. She was just sweet and a little shy.”

Golish said the tragic nature of Wilkerson’s death is especially painful for her entire family.

“My aunt said it feels extra tragic that she would die this way because she was truly a person who wouldn’t hurt anyone or anything,” Golish said. “She was so kindhearted and loved all animals, big and small. She dreamed of being a veterinarian growing up.”

In her last Facebook post on June 26th, Wilkerson asked for help finding an apartment to rent with her boyfriend and dog, Niko.

Wilkerson’s cause of death has not been released, but it is being investigated by Iron County sheriff’s detectives as a homicide.

“Our thoughts are with the Wilkerson family at this time,” the statement said.

An Aug. 10 Facebook post from Vawna Wilkerson said she believed her daughter had been abducted and taken hostage by a man and woman “she accidentally crossed paths with” at a St. George motel.

“Please help me find my beautiful baby girl. They are armed and have threatened to kill her, the post says.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 435-867-7500.

Contributing: Ashley Imlay