OKLAHOMA CITY - A teenager was reported missing.
A month later, a skull was found.
Now, after 16 years of searching, the two cases have been connected.
Over the last 16 years, the teen’s family never gave up.
Meanwhile, police released sketch after sketch, trying to identify the remains.
Then, last week, there was a final answer - their DNA was a match.
“Quite frankly, it's too long,” said Captain Paco Balderrama with the Oklahoma City Police Department.
Sixteen years, the family of Regina Curtis has waited for answers.
Regina went missing in May of 2000.
One month later, a skull was found near Lake Stanley Draper.
Police released a sketch connected to the skull, but the case was not connected to Regina’s.
Throughout the years, Regina's family never gave up.
They spoke with NewsChannel 4 multiple times.
“It's been a strain we all carry," said Virgil Curtis in 2004. "It's just there, and we live with it every day.”
Twice, they worked with the OSBI to see if remains found in other areas of the state were that of Regina.
Both times their DNA was not a match.
Still, they kept hoping.
“Just knowing what happened to her will put some kind of rest to her,” Virgil said in that interview from 2004.
Police had DNA from the remains added to a national database twice.
Then, in 2006, Regina's family submitted their DNA to that database.
Still, no match.
In 2010, Oklahoma City police released an updated sketch.
It was followed by numerous calls from those who knew Regina.
“We had strong indication that it was her,” Balderrama said.
Police said, at the time, the DNA results were still outstanding.
“Keep in mind, we've only had a few hours to look into this as to all of the whys," Balderrama said. "I don't have the exact answer to that.”
So, why, with just one month between Regina's disappearance and the time the skull was found, were the cases never connected?
Police said it's likely because there were numerous other missing persons reports at the same time.
While they are looking in to why this took so long, they are glad to finally offer some sort of closure to the family.
“It's been a long case for the family, heartbreaking for everyone involved,” Balderrama said.
Over the last couple of years, the medical examiner's office has been working to submit DNA from remains in their office to the national database.
They tell us Regina's remains were in that group.
They said that is what helped to finally solve the case.
Police said they are looking into how Regina died and do consider this a homicide investigation.
They said that part of the case is still open and ongoing.
Here is the timeline Oklahoma City police gave us regarding the work they have done on both cases:
- May 12, 2000: Regina Curtis is reported as a runaway juvenile in southwest OKC
- June 22, 2000: Found Remains Reported at Lake Draper, in far southeast OKC
- November 2000: Composite Clay Model Sent to Media Outlets (OSBI) and attempt to distribute through school system
- October 2002: Re-attempt to disseminate Composite Clay Model to News Media
- December 2002: Dissemination of Composite Clay Model Flyers sent to schools
- December 2002: 1st sample of remains submitted to The University of North Texas for DNA analysis
- January 2005: 2nd sample of remains submitted to The University of North Texas, (1st sample did not contain sufficient bone marrow for analysis)
- August 2006: DNA was obtained by OSBI from Curtis family and sent to The University of North Texas for DNA profile.
- March 2010: Composite drawing was released to media, OCPD received various tips from Curtis family believing remains may be Regina Curtis. OCPD also believes it may be her but no DNA evidence to
make that confirmation.
- January 2016: A DNA match was made by The University of North Texas, positively identifying the victim and OCPD was notified.
- February 3, 2016: OCPD sent next of kin notification to Curtis family reference DNA results.
Regina’s family tells us, while they have a sense of relief knowing she is dead, they believe there must be a better way for families to get answers.
A funeral for Regina will be held this Saturday in Seiling, Oklahoma at the Cheyenne Arapaho Community Center.