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DPS investigators solve 22-year-old Midland mystery involving missing teen; now they're trying to solve her murder

The remains of 16-year-old Sylvia Nicole Smith were found 13 years after she disappeared in 2000, but remained unidentified until now.
Credit: Google Maps
Sylvia Nicole Smith's partial remains were found in a remote area of South County Road and FM 1213, south of Midland, on August 1, 2013

MIDLAND, Texas — The last time Sylvia Nicole Smith's mother saw her 16-year-old daughter was Valentine's Day in 2000. She thought the teen had run away and reported her  missing on February 18. 

Now, 22 years later, the Midland mom finally knows what happened to Sylvia.

Human remains found in Midland County nearly nine years ago have now been positively identified as Sylvia following a lot of detective work by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Now, investigators want to know who killed her. 

How they solved one mystery

Sylvia's partial remains were found in a remote area off South County Road near FM 1213, south of Midland, on August 1, 2013. They were discovered by workers surveying near an oilfield well site.

The Texas Rangers, DPS Aircraft and the Midland County Sheriff’s Office conducted an extensive search of the area for other evidence but didn't find anything.

The remains were sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. DNA revealed the victim was a female between the ages of 14 and 21 who was likely the victim of a homicide. From there, the case went cold.

Then in 2020, the Rangers sent the remains to Parabon Nanolabs for advanced DNA analysis to determine what the victim looked like.

The results revealed the victim was of African-American descent, and identified eye color, hair color and skin tone. A genetic genealogist who examined the DNA assisted with a match which led to a distant relative.

Rangers interviewed numerous potential relatives over the next two years and finally identified the victim's mother, who still lived in the area. She confirmed her daughter had vanished 22 years ago.

Rangers collected DNA samples from Smith’s family that confirmed the remains found in 2013 were definitely Sylvia.

Trying to solve murder mystery

The Rangers are now conducting a homicide investigation into her death, and ask anyone with information into her disappearance or homicide to come forward with information.

To be eligible for cash rewards, tipsters must provide information to authorities by calling the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477). All tips are anonymous. 

Texas Crime Stoppers offers rewards of up to $3,000 for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible for any Ranger cold case listed on the website. For more information, visit the Texas Rangers’ Cold Case website.

Individuals can also submit information through the Cold Case website or by phone to the Missing Person Hotline at 1-800-346-3243.

MISSING PIECES: More Texas cold cases

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