Human remains found in Texas nearly 10 years ago have been identified as Sylvia Nicole Smith, a teenager who had gone missing in 2000, Texas officials said. DNA testing helped authorities create a profile for the remains, and Smith's mother was able to confirm her identity last month.
A homicide investigation is now underway, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement on Monday.
The partial remains were found by workers surveying near an oilfield well site south of Midland on August 1, 2013, the DPS said.
Following the discovery, the remains were sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, where an anthropology report was completed and DNA was extracted. The testing revealed that the victim was a female between the ages of 14 and 21 who was likely the victim of a homicide, the DPS said.
The DNA results were put into the Combined DNA Index System and got no results. But in 2020, the Texas Rangers and the Midland County District Attorney's Office sent the remains to two labs for advanced DNA analysis, and learned the victim was of African-American descent. They also confirmed her eye and hair color, according to the DPS.
From there a genetic genealogist who examined the DNA found a match, which led authorities to a distant relative. The Texas Rangers interviewed multiple potential relatives to gather family information, the DPS said.
In May 2022, information led authorities to Smith's mother in the Midland area.
"In speaking with the mother, she stated one of her daughters — Sylvia Nicole Smith — had been missing since 2000," the DPS said.
The 16-year-old was last seen on February 14, 2000, by her mother, who filed a runaway report with the Midland Police Department four days later, the DPS said.
After finding Smith's mother, Texas Rangers collected DNA samples from other members of Smith's family, and on June 9, the University of North Texas verified that the remains belonged to the missing teenager, the DPS said.
The Texas Rangers, who opened a homicide investigation into Smith's death, are now asking anyone with information about Smith's disappearance or homicide to come forward.
Tipsters can call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477) — all tips are anonymous — or submit information through the Texas Rangers' Cold Case website or by phone to the Missing Person Hotline at 1-800-346-3243.