Aisha Hashmi sat in the floor and sobbed Thursday when she saw a photograph of the newly discovered skeletal remains of her sister and niece who went missing 21 years ago in a case that is connected to Lincoln County.
On May 29, 1992, Hashmi's sister, Wendy Camp, 23, along with Camp's daughter, Cynthia Britto, who was 6, and Camp's sister-in-law, Lisa Kregear, 23, disappeared, with the last reported sighting of them occurring at the Walmart in Chandler.
Foul play was suspected in their disappearance, but the search for the missing three grew cold until a recent tip led investigators to conduct a dig on a rural property near Jennings in Pawnee County. There, the remains that are believed to be those of the missing trio were unearthed.
Investigators on Thursday arrested a Bristow man on an accessory to murder complaint in this case, but more arrests are expected as the triple homicide investigation continues.
While the discovery after all these years is somber news for the families, Hashmi, who now lives in Texas, said she's relieved their remains have been found.
"This is something I've waited 21 years to hear," Hashmi said, although she admits the gravesite photograph was tough to view.
"It really hit me hard…I was sitting in the floor, sobbing," Hashmi said. "I was crying bad."
The photograph of the remains was part of a news conference Thursday where authorities, including Pottawatomie/Lincoln County District Attorney Richard Smothermon, discussed the case.
"Twenty-one years ago, these two women and this 6-year-old child were murdered and buried under 8 feet of dirt," Smothermon said, adding that it's time for justice in this case.
While Hashmi has submitted a sample of her DNA and they are awaiting a positive match, authorities with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and Hashmi are confident the remains are those of Camp, Britto and Kregear based on the clothing found on the remains.
"I'm 100 percent — a million percent — sure it's my family," Hashmi said.
"It's hard, but by the same token, we've been waiting 21 years to know what happened — we finally have answers," she said. "Not knowing where they were is a million times worse.
"In our hearts, we're hoping they didn't suffer," Hashmi added.
Authorities said a tip on where investigators could find the bodies resulted in OSBI agents, Creek County investigators, and personnel with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to begin digging at the rural area near Jennings on April 15. The next day, investigators uncovered remains of two adults and one child. Clothing still on the bodies matched the descriptions given at the time the missing persons reports were filed.
Page 2 of 3 - As part of this case, OSBI agents on Thursday arrested Grover Prewitt, Jr., 60, of Bristow, on a $500,000 warrant for a felony charge of accessory after the fact, first-degree murder. That case has been filed in Creek County.
The OSBI said he was arrested for "his role in concealing the fact the three had been murdered and their bodies dumped in an eight-foot-deep hole originally dug for a septic tank."
The land where the bodies were found was originally owned by Prewitt, according to the OSBI, and at the time of the murders, he reportedly sold his mother five of his 40 acres of land, with the bodies found in that five-acre tract that was later sold.
The three victims disappeared during a 1992 trip from Oklahoma City to Shamrock, Okla., to visit Wendy Camp's young son, who lived in Shamrock with his father, Chad Noe, the OSBI reported.
His mother, Beverly Noe, who is also reported to be Prewitt's sister, drove the three to and from Shamrock, the OSBI reported, and claims she dropped them off at the Walmart in Chandler.
The victims were never seen or heard from again.
The OSBI believes several others besides Prewitt are involved in the homicides and is offering up to a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved.
For Hashmi, that can't happen soon enough.
"Until we see them in jail, there will be no closure," she said.
For now, though, Hashmi is grateful the remains have been found.
Hashmi described her sister as a "Straight-A" student who had a passion for horses and wanted to become a veterinarian. She said her older sister was her defender, her protector. Hashmi, who said she babysat her niece, said Britto was in the first grade at the time the three disappeared.
Over the past 21 years, Hashmi has been busy raising her three children but said she kept up searches and awareness about the missing persons case any way she could.
"I told my sister — in my heart — that I would never quit missing you and looking for you," she said.
Their father died in 2006 and never had any closure in knowing what happened, she said, but their mother, Jackie Taylor, of Guthrie, is relieved by the latest developments.
"It's a blessing — now I have some answers," Taylor said. "I'm finally going to get to bring them home."
And while their bones and clothes were found in Pawnee County, Taylor said, "I know in my heart they're in heaven."
Now the families are making plans for a proper burial.
Page 3 of 3 - Hashmi said her family, as well as Kregear's brother, who resides in Kansas, seem to agree that the three, who've been together in death all these years, should remain together in their final resting place and share one headstone.
Because they all agree, "God has already put his hands on us — God is giving us comfort," Hashmi said.
Anyone with further information about this case is asked to the call the OSBI hotline at 1-800-522-8017.
Watch for updates.