Investigators found the 18-year-old’s body in a gravesite in an undisclosed area of Churchill County, the sheriff’s office confirmed Wednesday, just hours after her accused kidnapper appeared in court via Zoom.
Her body was transported to the Washoe County Medical Examiners Office for an autopsy which confirmed identification.
Ex-convict Troy Driver, 41, had a court hearing earlier Wednesday where he was charged with first-degree kidnapping.
He could face life in prison without parole if he is convicted.
The body of Naomi Irion, 18, was found in a remote area of Nevada on Tuesday
Troy Driver, 41, made his initial court appearance from a Nevada jail on Wednesday via Zoom. His bail was kept at $750,000 in connection with the kidnapping of Naomi Irion
Irion’s remains were found in Churchill County 18 days after she was kidnapped from a Walmart in Fernley
Hundreds of volunteers had joined in searches across the vast desert area over the past two weeks looking for Irion.
Investigators were acting on a tip about her disappearance when they found the gravesite on Tuesday.
‘No further information can be released at this time as this is still an open and active investigation,’ the sheriff’s office said Wednesday after officials announced Irion had been found.
The Churchill County and Lyon County sheriff’s departments, which have been working closely on Irion’s case, issued condolences to her loved ones.
‘We would like to extend our sympathy and condolences to the Irion family and thank all the volunteers for their hard work in trying to find Naomi and bring closure to the family,’ the law enforcement offices wrote in a press release.
Irion’s family is pictured at Driver’s arraignment on Wednesday at the Canal Township Justice Court in Fernley, Nevada
Irion, the daughter of a U.S. State Department staffer, was last seen around 5.25am on March 12 in her car in a Walmart parking lot in Fernley, about 30 miles east of Reno.
In a criminal complaint filed Wednesday morning, prosecutors alleged Driver – who was apprehended last Friday in connection to her disappearance – ‘did abduct Naomi Irion and did hold or detain her for the purpose of committing sexual assault and/or for the purpose of killing her.’
He made his initial court appearance Wednesday, via video conference from Lyon County Jail, before Canal Township Justice Court Judge Lori Matheus who ruled that his bail will remain at $750,000.
If Driver is able to post bail, he will be required to wear a GPS monitor as a condition of his release. He also must stay away from Fernley, Nevada, where Irion’s kidnapping took place.
Irion lived in Fernley with her older brother, Casey Valley, who told reporters after the hearing that the family was ‘all in shock’ that any bail was set.
Matheus set a court date for Driver next Tuesday, and a preliminary hearing April 12 to decide if there is evidence for Driver to be tried in state court.
His defense lawyer, Mario Walther, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In a criminal complaint filed Wednesday morning, prosecutors alleged Driver ‘abducted Naomi Irion and did hold or detain her for the purpose of committing sexual assault and/or for the purpose of killing her’
Surveillance footage from the morning of her disappearance, showed Irion sitting in the driver’s seat while she waited for a company shuttle to take her to her job at Panasonic.
A man wearing a hoodie – believed to be Driver – was filmed approaching her vehicle after circling the area.
It’s unclear if she was in the store at the time he broke into the vehicle or if she was in the car, but footage shows the pair driving off with the suspect in the driver’s seat.
The pair then drove out of the lot with the man behind the wheel. Her abandoned car was found on March 15 near a paint manufacturing facility in an industrial park along Interstate 80 less than a mile away from the Walmart store.
Valley said earlier his sister usually catches a bus from the Walmart lot to work at a Reno-area Panasonic facility. He contacted family members and authorities after she failed to arrive at work and didn’t return home that weekend.
Irion’s family claimed the teen went on a date with an unknown man the day before she vanished and had complained about being sexually harassed at work.
Panasonic knew about the harassment and had handled it ‘internally,’ according to her brother.
Before authorities announced that her body had been identified, Valley told reporters Wednesday that the family appreciated the support from the community and praised efforts by sheriff’s deputies and federal agents to find his sister.
‘Lyon County and the FBI are working very hard,’ he said. ‘I wish there was more and everybody does.’
Irion is seen walking before a man got into her car and drove off with her. It is unclear if she knew Driver, her alleged kidnapper
Irion is seen buying snacks at a gas station convenience store on her way to a her factory job
Irion was kidnapped on March 12 in Fernley, Nevada. Her remains were discovered on March 30 in Churchill County
Driver is a convicted felon and previously served 12 years in California state prison for his role in a methamphetamine dealer’s murder.
Criminal records show he was convicted in 1997 of accessory to a murder after the fact in relation to the killing of 19-year-old Paul Steven Rodriguez.
Driver’s rap sheet in California also includes convictions on charges of second-degree robbery and burglary.
The Ukiah Daily Journal reported that in April 1997, Rodriguez, who was a methamphetamine dealer from Willits, California, was shot in the head by his 17-year-old girlfriend, Alissa Marie Moore.
Driver, who was 17 years old at the time, and 19-year-old Carl Herbert Dulinksy helped Moore dispose of Rodriguez’ body and hide his torched car in a nearby forest.
The trio of suspects were arrested after the victim’s remains were discovered two weeks after the killing.
Ex-convict Troy Driver, 41, is accused of kidnapping Irion from the Walmart parking lot in Fernley during the early morning hours of March 12. He made his initial court appearance before Canal Township Justice Court Judge Lori Matheus on Wednesday who ruled that his bail will remain at $750,000.
This article published in the Ukiah Daily Journal in 1997 recorded Driver’s arrest in connection of a 19-year-old meth dealer’s murder in California
Driver’s sister, Sharla Driver Cassidy, was also implicated in his crimes after she admitted to driving the car used to lure Rodriguez to his death. She also acted as the getaway driver in her brother’s robberies, which he claimed to have committed to help his sister buy plane tickets to Italy.
Four months later, Driver pleaded guilty to the accessory charge related to the murder. He also admitted to robbing a convenience store and a service station, and to breaking into a hardware store.
Driver was sentenced to 15 years in state prison but was released after 12 years.
Since regaining his freedom more than a decade ago, Driver settled in Nevada, living in Elko County, and, more recently, in Lyon County, and working in construction.
According to his LinkedIn page, Driver is currently employed as project superintendent at Ledcor, a construction company operating throughout the US and Canada.
A spokesperson for Ledcor confirmed Driver’s employment status to DailyMail.com.
‘Ledcor is fully cooperating with the FBI and law enforcement officials in their investigation,’ the company representative said in a written statement. ‘We have also encouraged employees who might have information that could help with the investigation to immediately contact the authorities. We hope for the safe return of Naomi Irion to her family.’
Irion moved to America last year after growing up in sheltered communities in Russia, Germany and South Africa, a result of her father’s job with the State Department
Irion’s family say she had accounts on Hinge, Bumble and Tinder. She had been meeting people online and at work, and was a ‘member of the LGBTQ community’, her family said
Her father Herve Irion works for the State Department. When she was around 13, the family moved to Moscow, then they went to Frankfurt and finally settled in South Africa
Irion’s family revealed to DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview last week that the 18-year-old was exploring life as a free, young American woman after growing up in sheltered communities in Russia, Germany and South Africa – a result of her father’s job with the State Department.
She moved to America last year to live with Valley, an Apple employee who served in the Navy as a nuclear machinist from 2009 to 2016. She wanted to learn how to drive, get a job, go on dates and attend community college.
Fernley, where she was living with her brother, is a safe area where the residents are stunned by what has happened.
‘She really wanted to experience life in America being an American kid. Most kids get to learn how to drive a car and go on dates and get some freedom but in the diplomatic community overseas, you can’t have that. You can’t learn how to drive a car. You can’t really go on dates safely.
‘You have to be secure and there’s a lot of security that keeps us safe. She hadn’t experienced life without that yet.
‘She really wanted to explore herself as a free American young woman and what that looked like for her.’
‘She was so excited to move back to America,’ her mother, Diana, told DailyMail.com on Tuesday after flying in to Nevada from South Africa, where she still lives with her husband, Herve Irion, and their three Ukrainian-born adopted sons.
Until this year, Irion had never driven nor gone on dates freely. She was meeting people ‘online’ and at work, just like other teenagers and adults, her family said.
She was excited about having a car, a job in the Panasonic factory in Reno, where she was making friends.
Her plan was to use her brother’s safe home as a launchpad for her own life, saving up enough money from her job at Panasonic to afford her own place, and enrolling in community college.