Orange County family members who attended an "ID the Missing" event last fall finally have some answers in the case of a woman who disappeared nearly three decades ago.
It marks the first success for the county's new "ID the Missing" program. Authorities collect DNA samples from relatives of those with missing loved ones and compare them to DNA from unidentified remains.
DNA collected at an October event matched material from bones found in 1989. Those remains were identified as Kristyne Olivia Trejo, who disappeared 28 years ago.
U.S. & World
Tina Marie Costa, Kristyne Olivia Trejo's daughter, said she never thought the family would find out what happened to her mother.
"At least, we can lay her down to rest -- that's my closure," said Costa, who was 5 years old at the time of the disappearance. "But it's like it opened a door. I don't know what happened to her. Someone out there did this to her. Someone out there has been living with this. It's a feeling I don't wish on anybody."
The family received Trejo's remains on Friday, she said.
Costa said a Santa Ana officer told the family about the "ID the Missing" event, which have become more common across the country as investigators rely on improving DNA technology to make connections between those reported missing and unidentified remains. Some 34 families have provided 47 samples so far.
"In 1988, we didn't have the technology we have today in terms of DNA," said Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas. "We even consulted a psychic at one point, to no avail."
Andrew Trejo was 10 years old when his mother disappeared. He said there are still many questions about her disappearance and death, but that the identification of her remains was part of the healing process.
"There wasn't anything that I wouldn't do to find closure," said Andrew Trejo. "This was just the biggest thing that could possibly happen for us.
"I'm sad that we're not bringing her home alive, but we can properly lay her to rest and start the process of healing. It's been hard for me waiting for all these years, hoping that one day I'd get home and just see her there. There was an empty part of me that only she could fill."
The two siblings were raised by their grandparents.
Trejo was last seen in June 1988, when she was 27, in Santa Ana, according to the National Missing Person Directory. She left for a group meeting and never returned to her home.
The remains were found in 1989 in San Bernardino County.
Andrew Trejo said he believes criminal activity was behind his mother's disappearance. He described the day she disappeared as "normal." He remembered giving his mother, who worked as a server in a restaurant, a good-bye kiss before she left for the meeting. Costa recalled wanting to go with her mother on that day, but she stayed behind with her grandmother.
"She loved us too much just to walk away from us," he said, sitting next to his sister at a Tuesday news conference.
The family is planning a memorial event and private burial service.