The remains of missing girls identified 8 years after they were found near Texas oil field

A Texas mother reported her missing 16-year-old daughter as a runaway in February 2000.

About 13 years later, in August 2013, the teenager remains were found by workers surveying near an oil field in Midland County – but no one knew they belonged to Sylvia Nicole Smith

It took more than 8 years to confirm that those partial remains belonged to Sylvia, authorities say, and now the Texas Rangers are investigating a murder.

After Sylvia’s then-unidentified remains were found on Aug. 1, 2013, an “extensive search” for evidence was conducted, according to a June 27 press release from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Her remains were then sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification.

DNA found the remains belonged to a young woman “who was likely the victim of a murder,” but authorities say no matches have been found through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

Years later, in 2020, the Texas Rangers and the Midland County District Attorney’s Office set out to find new ways to identify the victim.

Results from Parabon Nanolabs revealed that she was of African American descent and confirmed her eye color, hair color and skin tone.

“A genetic genealogist who examined the DNA helped with a match that led to a distant relative,” the State Department said. “Rangers interviewed numerous potential relatives to gather family information, and in May 2022, information led to the victim’s mother in the Midland area. In an interview with the mother, she stated that one of her daughters – Sylvia Nicole Smith – had been missing since 2000.”

The mother reported that she last saw Sylvia on February 14, 2000, and four days later she filed a runaway report with Midland Police.

Texas Rangers took DNA samples from members of the Smith family, and on June 9, authorities said they confirmed the remains belonged to Sylvia.

“A murder investigation is now underway,” officials said.

If you have additional information about her death or disappearance, you can submit tips through the Texas Rangers Cold Case Website or by calling the missing persons hotline at 1-800-346-3243. Tipsters wishing to qualify for cash rewards should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-252-8477.

Midland County is located in western Texas, about 328 miles southwest of Dallas.

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