TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – It’s thanks to advanced DNA testing that investigators have connected the victim of a decades-long homicide case to family living in Topeka.
“I lost it at that moment. You know, just bawling and crying and wondering why,” Danielle Pixler, the victim’s half-sister said.
For Pixler, it’s been 28 years of wondering.
Wondering why she couldn’t have just a little more time with her big sister Shawna Beth whose distant memory she holds to tightly.
“The couch, with her sitting on it. And I see her little round face and red hair,” Pixler recalled.
Her half-sister’s life cut short at just 22 years old; the victim of a gruesome homicide that happened in 1990 in Missouri.
With no promising leads as to who the victim was, or who was responsible, the case went cold for over 30 years until this week.
“Nine months ago, I was having nightmares about somebody screaming and yelling help me. I had no clue,” Pixler said.
No clue those dreams may have been about her older sister, and an image of what might have happened to her after they lost touch.
Danielle, Shawna, and their big brother Robert Ringwald were separated by foster care when they were little kids.
Robert recalled a rough upbringing, but a close connection that got them through it all.
“We were real close. She was always happy and always full of energy,” Ringwald said.
The two had been looking for Shawna ever since, but never finding answers until this week when a DNA swab provided by Danielle matched the profile done by a forensic company for Shawna’s remains.
“Like a piece of my heart and soul had been destroyed,” Ringwald said. “Just devasting.”
News that shattered the hope that Robert had kept alive all these years that one day the two would be together again.
“You know I never stopped loving her, wanted to introduce her to her nieces and nephews, one of whom is named after her,” Ringwald said.
Memories too of what could have been.
“We would’ve been best friends. We could talk, hang out,” Pixler said. “We could’ve done each other’s hair…I mean there’s so much we could’ve done as little girls.”
Now, after finally getting closer to the truth of what happened to Shawna, their family is encouraging others dealing with cold cases to never give up and are hoping that technology in DNA testing that helped this case will lead officials to whoever did this.
“She’s in heaven, we know that. And at least I know there’s closure on knowing that where she is,” Pixler said.
Shawna’s brother Robert said the last he heard of his sister, she was somewhere in Oklahoma and had changed her last name to Harvey.
Now their family wants justice for their sister and for the truth of what happened to her to come out.
If you have any information that could help police with this investigation, you can call the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office at (417) 223-4319 and ask for Lt. Michael Hall.