The partial skull found on the banks of the Blanco River by fishermen on March 19 has apparently been identified as belonging to Laurie Pineda, announced Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler during a press conference this afternoon.
University of North Texas Center for Human Identification compared DNA in the skull cap with that of Pineda and some of her relatives. On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office received a letter including the results of the center’s analysis, which concluded the skull fragment probably belongs to Pineda, based on a DNA comparison of the skull and tissue samples from a medical procedure conducted in 2002.
The skull cap was found just more than a mile downstream from where Pineda went missing. Pineda, 24, was reportedly swept into the river at a low water crossing on Nov. 14, 2004 during a flood event. Pineda and her friend, Jason Schmidt, attempted to cross the low water crossing on Post Road near Old Stagecoach Road when floodwaters swept their vehicle off the road. Both Pineda and Schmidt left the vehicle as it was filling with water. Schmidt was able to grab a nearby tree, but Pineda was swept down the river. Attempts to locate her continued for several days without success.
The Pineda family was notified by Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2 Beth Smith of the results. The final report is expected from the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office in January 2012, after the holidays.
The Pineda family was not immediately available for comment.
In the years following Pineda’s disappearance, two different incidents were reported where bones were found along the Blanco River. However, the bones were identified as non-human. With the Blanco River at one of its lowest points in history due to drought, two searches were organized in September by the Hays County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division. The search teams were comprised of the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, San Marcos Police Department, CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), and Texas State University Forensic graduate students. Woman’s clothing was found, though it could not be matched to Pineda.