AURORA, Ill. — Authorities in Illinois have identified skeletal remains found in Kane County in December as those of Tyesha Patrice Bell, a young mother of two who vanished in 2003.
Aurora police officials announced the findings on Tuesday. Bell’s death is being investigated as a homicide.
“The Aurora Police Department continues to work closely with our partners at the Kane County Major Crimes Task Force, the Kane County Coroner’s Office and the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office to investigate all aspects of this case and bring justice to Tyesha’s family and her loved ones,” said Paris Lewbel, a spokesperson for the Aurora Police Department.
Bell was 22 years old the night of May 8, 2003, when she was last seen at the Randall West Apartments, where she shared a home with her two young daughters and her sister. The children, Tiniya and Tiarra Bell, were 5 and 1, respectively, at the time of their mother’s disappearance.
“After receiving a telephone call, she left home but left the television on, candles burning in her bedroom and her two young children with family members, and hasn’t been seen or heard from since,” police officials said in a statement.
Family members reported Bell missing on May 10 after she failed to respond to more than 50 messages left on her cellphone. The Chicago Tribune reported in 2004 that phone records showed Bell never checked her voicemail again after the early morning hours of May 9.
“I was leaving her messages saying, ‘Tyesha, if you don’t call me back right now, I’m going to report you missing,’” her mother, Lorna Smith, told the Tribune.
Bell never responded. On May 11 — Mother’s Day — Smith wept, knowing something bad had happened to her oldest child.
Smith told the newspaper that Bell had gone through some troubles but was working to turn her life around when she disappeared.
“She wasn’t a perfect girl, but she was trying,” Smith said. “And she was mine.”
ABC 7 in Chicago reported in 2005 that Bell’s boyfriend was a person of interest early in the case. The phone call that brought Bell out of the apartment the night she disappeared came from the man’s cellphone.
Detectives also believed he was being less than forthcoming about what he knew, the news station reported. He eventually stopped cooperating with the investigation, but it was unclear Tuesday if he remains a suspect.
Investigators said they have followed up on numerous leads over the past 18 years but found no sign of Bell until Dec. 11, when remains were found in a remote wooded area of Kane County. Nothing found with the bones confirmed the person’s identity.
“A number of bones were found, along with clothing and other personal effects,” Kane County Coroner Rob Russell said. “After the scene was processed, the coroner’s office removed the remains and brought them to the Kane County morgue for additional testing.”
Watch Tuesday’s announcement below.
Russell, in consultation with a forensic dentist and a forensic anthropologist, created a profile of the victim, the police statement read. Genetic material was also sent to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab for analysis.
Dental records and the DNA analysis confirmed that the bones belonged to Bell.
Tiniya Bell posted video of Tuesday’s news conference on her Facebook page following the announcement that her mother’s body had been found.
“Looks like I have always had a guardian angel,” Bell wrote.
Bell, now a behavioral therapist in her 20s, urged anyone with information on her mother’s killing to call detectives, who also asked the public for help on Tuesday.
“Our detectives continue to have working theories in Tyesha’s case, but we need more information before criminal charges can be authorized, and that’s where the public comes in,” Jack Fichtel, commander of the Aurora Police Department’s Bureau of Investigative Services, said. “We implore anyone who may have information to please come forward.”
The Aurora Police Department has set up a dedicated tip line for Bell’s case. Anyone with tips or information about the case is asked to call 630-256-5517 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tips can also be left anonymously by calling the Aurora Area Crime Stoppers at 630-892-1000.