RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — After remains were found in 1999, the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office has now learned who they belong to.

On July 20, 1999, a 911 call was made reporting the discovery of human remains in a wooded area on Easy Street in Northern Sampson County. Investigators said the remains were in an advanced state of decomposition making them impossible to identify at the time. No forms of identification were found.

While the remains allowed investigators to determine a general description, fingerprint and DNA analysis were unsuccessful in providing a positive identification. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also extended its assistance in attempting to identify the remains but were unsuccessful.

Over the last 24 years, the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office said investigators pursued hundreds of leads. Even with comparing missing persons’ reports to the description of the unidentified remains, every lead hit a wall.

In 2021, the sheriff’s office obtained a federal grant to analyze the unidentified remains’ DNA through genealogy databases, with the aim of locating family members.

The sheriff’s office submitted DNA from hair samples to The Kin Finder Group in hopes of finding a family member in Aug. 2021.

Victoria Delores Mejia Paredes

While investigators waited on results of the DNA submission, a tip came in June 2022. The tipster said they came across an NCMEC Facebook post about the unidentified remains and believed they could belong to Victoria Dolores Mejia Paredes.

Paredes’ daughter was living in California and agreed to submit a DNA sample.

About a week later, the previously submitted DNA sample was linked to people with the surname Paredes. The family was found to be from Honduras with several members currently living in the United States.

That DNA sample was then compared to the woman living in California and it was determined the two were mother and daughter. The remains were positively identified as belonging to Paredes.

Investigators learned in 1991, Paredes was 21 and living in Honduras with her family. She was in a relationship with Vayardo Meza, with whom she had a daughter.

Meza lived in Rose Hill and arranged for Paredes to join him in the United States. Paredes’ family lost contact with her when she left Honduras in early 1999. Meza returned to Honduras around April 2000 and told Paredes’ family that she had left him. She was never reported missing. Meza died between 2000 and 2001.

It is still unknown how or when exactly Paredes died.

“The Sampson County Sheriff’s Office extends its gratitude to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Astrea Forensics, The Kin Finder Group, and the San Jose Police Department for their invaluable contributions. This collaborative effort has brought the investigation closer to providing closure to the Paredes family. I would like to further thank my investigative staff and Captain Dixon for their unwavering efforts in this cold case,” said Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton.

The investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact the investigators at the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office at 910-592-4141.