By SEAN KIMMONS
Pieces of women’s clothing are to be analyzed following a Saturday search along the dry Blanco River for the remains of a 24-year-old Kyle woman swept away by floodwaters almost seven years ago, authorities say.
On Nov. 14, 2004, Laurie Pineda and her boyfriend Jason Schmidt tried to drive through a low-water crossing on Post Road near Five Mile Dam Park south of Kyle when their vehicle was carried off the roadway. Authorities say Pineda and Schmidt, who was rescued, clung to a tree until a floating log hit Pineda and knocked her into the rushing waters.
In March, two men canoeing the river just east of Interstate 35 discovered a human skullcap near the river’s edge, a few miles downriver from the place where Laurie went missing. Authorities combed the area again but were unable to locate other remains.
The skullcap along with tissue samples from a medical procedure done on Pineda in 2002 were taken to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification for comparison. Examiners have asked the Hays County Sheriff’s Office if any other bones could be found to help pinpoint a match.
“We got a call last week to see if we could go back and find some more bones to make a definite comparison,” sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Dennis Gutierrez said. “With this severe drought this river is about the lowest it’s ever been. We’re able to go up and down it pretty easily now.”
The search comprised 60 volunteers from the sheriff’s office, San Marcos Police Department, the county’s Civilian Emergency Response Team and forensic graduate students from Texas State University. Local pilot Ron Huffman also provided aerial support from his airplane.
Hours later, searchers found no human remains but gathered some clothing of interest, which included a woman’s shirt, blue jeans and a shoe, said Gutierrez. He added it would be another few weeks or so to analyze the clothing.
“We know the Pineda family would love to have closure in this,” he said. “That is our ultimate goal. It’s been seven long years for them.”
The woman’s father, Ignacio Pineda, appreciated the support for his lost daughter.
“The more they find, the more hope we find that it’s her,” Ignacio said. “They did what they could. I’m grateful that they went down there.”
He said that he and other family members were called in to give additional DNA samples to help with the process. If examiners cannot verify a positive match, the Pineda family will have to find closure another way, he says.
“We just have to, in time, realize that she’s with God because we haven’t found her,” he said. “It’s hard to come to a conclusion. We just have to keep going on with our lives and keep her in our thoughts.”