The remains, found on May 16, 1998 on the Onondaga Nation, have been identified as 47-year-old Maryann Krepps, a native of North Brunswick, New Jersey.
According to an obituary, she was born on March 15, 1952 and graduated from Emerson High School in Union City, New Jersey in 1970. She lived in Manhattan for many years before moving to Syracuse, where she worked as a caregiver in a group home for impaired adults.
Krepps was reported missing in 1999, and her family said at the time they believed she was living with a man named Thomas Card in Syracuse, who they knew as ??Thomas Kelly??. When detectives first interviewed Card, he said he believed Krepps had gone to New York City to live with a drug dealer.
Sheriff Kevin Walsh says the skull could not be identified at the time of discovery, and a forensic scientist initially said the remains likely belonged to an African-American woman. For more than a year investigators looked at open missing persons cases, and were unsuccessful matching the skull to any known case.
"Over the next couple weeks We had cadaver dogs, we had forensic technicians, we did everything humanly possible to recover more remains but all we had to deal with was a skull," said Sheriff Kevin Walsh.
Later in 1999, Card was involved in a crash in Pennsylvania. He was driving Krepps?? car. He told police after the crash that Krepps was in drug rehab, but they were going to be married.
Syracuse police attempted to follow up but it was hard to determine where Krepps had been seen last.
"Neighbors indicated they had seen her on a regular basis as late as a couple weeks before," said Walsh.
In 2010, Krepps?? family in New Jersey provided a DNA sample of Maryann, which was put into the national database. In 2013, Krepps?? DNA sample matched the skull.
Investigators then learned that Thomas Kelly and Thomas Card, born on July 5, 1943, were the same person. He had been in prison since 2002 and died there in 2006.
Krepps?? remains were first buried in the Assumption Church cemetery in Syracuse. They were exhumed earlier this week and taken back to New Jersey. A memorial mass was held Friday morning at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Milltown, New Jersey.
Onondaga County Chief Assistant District Attorney Rick Trunfio said Friday if Card was still alive, he would have been prosecuted for murder.