Skeletal remains in a Texas septic tank belong to a woman who was first reported missing in 2004, police announced.
Police identified the remains of Leona Marie Tollett Johnson, who went missing when she was 21, through DNA analysis. The septic tank is on the property of Aristeo Cervantes Jr, the main suspect in the case, who is already in prison for stabbing his wife in 2015.
After police confronted Cervantes, he reportedly confessed to stabbing a woman to death and dumping her body inside a septic tank. He claimed he did not know Johnson, but he was able to pick out the victim from a photo lineup.
From there, police collected DNA from Johnson’s son in order to prove that the remains were his mother’s.
"She had a 3-year-old son. We found the 3-year-old son, he's around 16 years of age. We collected DNA sample from him and sent in the bones, and had the comparison and came back as positively identifying her as the victim," said Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra, according to KRGV. "When we first approached him. He believed right away that that was going to be his mother.”
Guerra said that Cervantes had a substance abuse problem at the time of Johnson’s disappearance. Police believe he lured the woman into his car with drugs before stabbing her to death at his home.
Cervantes came close to getting away with murder, Guerra said.
“However, you know putting the body in a septic tank and you know eventually septic tanks have to be serviced,” he added. “Things do have to be serviced, so I'm sure that he had that in the back of his mind, all this time, that it's just a matter of when that tank was going to get serviced that he would be discovered. But if they had abandoned the house he could have easily gotten away with murder.”