WASHINGTON - Jewel King was a mother of four who vanished in April 2006 from the same D.C. street where her mother lived. More than 12 years later, her family learned she had been killed and buried in a shallow grave.
King was one of three women whose skeletal remains were discovered by construction workers at an apartment building on Wayne Place in Southeast D.C. this past April.
Authorities officially identified King, 41-year-old Verdell Jefferson and 43-year-old Dorothy Butts as the victims on Wednesday. Police said they were all reported missing separately in 2006.
"We just thought she went somewhere, got her life together and was going to return one day," said Erika King, the victim's niece. "So to be dead - no - we never thought she was dead. Not one time until we heard that it was women bones found on Wayne Place that opened us up to feel that it may be her. If you asked me to answer that question, I never thought my aunt was dead. I believed that she was going to return one day."
Erika said her grandmother died four years ago without knowing what happened to her daughter, Jewel. For years, Erika's grandmother would drive up and down Wayne Place looking for her.
Jewel was last seen on April 7, 2006 on Galveston Street in Southwest D.C. The 48-year-old woman was reported missing six days later.
In April of this year, construction workers found the remains of Butts in a basement crawl space at the apartment building on Wayne Place. When a cadaver dog was let loose in the woods behind the building, they found King and Jefferson in a shallow grave.
King had been shot and Jefferson was bludgeoned to death.
King and Jefferson both disappeared within three weeks of each other. All three victims were all identified with DNA taken from surviving family members.
Police said there are no persons of interest in the case and investigators have a lot of work to do.
Erika admits her aunt was struggling with a number of issues when she vanished, but she did not deserve such a horrible death.
"It went through my mind all last night trying to fix the pieces back to the puzzle trying to rack my brain," said Erika. "Who would do it? What was the reason that they did it? Was she alive at first? Was she there for weeks, months? Or did she die right away? It's very tragic to me and trauma just added. But again, I will say I know my grandma, rest her soul - she is not happy, but accepting with her daughter being found."
D.C. police continue to hold on to the crime scene on Wayne Place where the women's remains were found. Police have been holding it since the discovery in April and there are no plans to relinquish that scene.