Leona Marie Tollett Johnson’s remains were identified by a DNA match after it was discovered in a septic tank in Hidalgo County, Texas on July 26
Police in Hidalgo County, Texas caught a break in a 13-year-old cold case after Skeletal remains discovered in the septic tank of a home in Edcouch city have been identified as a 21-year-old woman who has been missing since 2004.
DNA comparison revealed the remains are those of Leona Marie Tollett Johnson, who was first reported missing more than 13 years ago, according to a press release from the Sheriff’s Office.
Officials tested samples from Johnson’s 16-year-old son, who was only 3 years old when she disappeared, to confirm her identity.
“When we first approached him, he believed right away that was going to be his mother,” Sheriff Eddie Guerra told KRGV.
Authorities first uncovered the remains in July after the owner of a home in rural Edcouch discovered a large bone and boot inside their septic tank while it was being serviced.
Suspect Aristeo Cervantes Jr, is serving 12 years for stabbing his wife to death in the same house in 2015. He allegedly, has admitted to the murder
Police have since issued an arrest warrant for the previous occupant of the home, Aristeo Cervantes Jr,
The suspect, 40-year-old Cervantes is currently serving a 12-year sentence in prison for murdering his wife in the same residence in 2015, according to the release.
Amid questioning from investigators, Cervantes admitted to stabbing a woman 10 to 12 years ago and then placing her body in a tank, though he did not remember her name.
During the second visit by investigators, Cervantes identified his victim in a photo lineup. Police then sought the family out and obtained a DNA sample from Johnson’s son.
An autopsy performed on the remains indicated Johnson’s cause of death was homicide by stabbing, which is consistent with the suspect’s confession.
Cervantes reportedly lured his victim into his car with drugs and then drove her to the home. Guerra noted Johnson had a substance abuse problem at the time of her disappearance.