San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

April 11th, 2011
Family of missing woman awaits skull’s identification

by SEAN KIMMONS

Six years and four months have passed since Kyle resident Laurie Pineda was last seen alive, swept away by a surging Blanco River at the low-water crossing on Post Road in north San Marcos.

The recent discovery of a human skull, located on the shore a few miles downriver, may bring much anticipated closure to the family of the missing 24-year-old Kyle woman.

Ignacio Pineda holds a framed photograph of his missing daughter, Laurie Pineda, who disappeared during a Blanco River flood in November 2004. The family hopes that the recent discovery of a human skull found a few miles downriver from where Laurie vanished will bring them a long-awaited closure. PHOTO by SEAN KIMMONS

On March 19, two men canoeing stopped to fish on the river just east of Interstate 35 and north of Uhland Road next to a farmer’s field, where they found the skull.

Dalyn Pekar said that he came across the skull while on foot along an embankment near a hog trail.

“I could see a white cap in the distance,” he said. “I flipped it over and saw that it was a human skull.”

Authorities combed the area but were unable to recover any other bones. The skull, which has no jaw bone, teeth or eye sockets, has since been transferred to a North Texas forensics lab for testing, Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler said Tuesday.

Cutler said he does not know the sex of the person to whom the skull belonged and could not speculate on if it was part of the remains of a local missing person.

Sheriff’s detectives contacted the Pineda family and told them it could take up to three months to identify the skull. Until then, the Pineda family will stay in limbo.

“Almost every day we prayed that somebody would find her,” said Ignacio Pineda, her father. “We’re just hoping that it’s her body so we can have closure.”

Vanished

Once Laurie went missing, a massive search and rescue effort went underway. Laurie and her boyfriend, Jason Schmidt, had escaped from her Buick sedan but only Schmidt could be rescued.

Ignacio said that a police report stated that Laurie made a 911 call while she and Schmidt held onto a tree above the rushing water. A log, however, drifted by and knocked Laurie out of the tree and she disappeared.

High water warning gates were placed at the crossing following the incident.
After the rescue crews left, Ignacio and his son, Chris, occasionally hiked the river’s edge, most recently last week after the skull sighting.

“My son and I would walk as far as we could along the Blanco to see if we could find her,” he said.

If the skull belongs to Laurie, the family will plan a burial service.

“We have nowhere to visit her now,” Ignacio said. “We’re waiting to see if it’s her so we can take her to a graveyard.”

And if the skull turns out to be someone else, the family has no regrets.

“Even if it’s not her at least someone will have closure to their missing loved one,” said Rose Pineda, her sister. “But we believe and hope to God it is her. We miss her very dearly.”

‘Happy-go-lucky girl’

A Hays High School graduate, Laurie served in the U.S. Army and worked at a pizza parlor in Kyle. When she wasn’t at work, she read to kids at the Kyle Community Library, family members say.

“She was a loving, caring person who just loved kids but never had a chance to have them,” Rose said.

Laurie was a likeable person who loved movies and to dress up for Halloween.
“She was the type that would make friends real quick,” Ignacio said. “She was just a happy-go-lucky girl.”

The family said that they appreciated all of the support they were given over the years. For now, they see the recent news as a possible beginning to an end to their tragic ordeal.

“It’ll be a homecoming that you really don’t want but that’s what God intended,” Ignacio said. “The only thing we can do right now is keep busy and keep her in our thoughts and prayers.”

SEAN KIMMONS reports for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.

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