Human remains that were found in Texas nearly a decade ago have finally been positively identified via DNA testing as a 16-year-old girl who had gone missing in 2000.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced the identification of Sylvia Nicole Smith Monday and revealed that a homicide investigation has been launched.
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 results revealed the victim was a female between the ages of 14-21 who was likely the victim of a homicide.
The DNA results were put into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), but they produced no matches.
In 2020, Texas Rangers, working with the Midland County District Attorney’s Office, sent the remains to DNA Labs International and, ultimately, to Parabon Nanolabs for advanced DNA analysis, which determined that the victim was black, and identified her hair and eye color.
The statement from DPS said that a genetic genealogist who examined the DNA helped find a match, which led to a distant relative of the victim.
From there, Rangers interviewed “numerous” potential relatives to build a family tree, and in May 2022 that information led them to the victim’s mother living in the Midland area.
“In speaking with the mother, she stated one of her daughters — Sylvia Nicole Smith — had been missing since 2000,” the press release stated.
The teen’s mother said she last saw Smith on Feb. 14, 2000. Four days later, the woman filed a runaway report with the Midland Police Department.
Texas Rangers collected DNA samples from Smith’s family for analysis, and on June 9, the University of North Texas confirmed that the remains found in 2013 belonged to Smith.
DPS did not reveal how the 16-year-old died, or what prompted the agency to open a homicide investigation.
Texas Crime Stoppers is offering a $3,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to an arrest in connection with Smith’s killing.