SCOTT COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Heartland news continues to a closely follow a story we first brought you online and on the air at five.
Tuesday morning, investigators in Scott County made a big move in a search for the killer in a murder from two decades ago.
Sheriff Rick Walter said he made the decision a few months ago to exhume the body of Mischelle Lawless. Walter was first on scene to discover her body inside her car just off Interstate 55 near the Benton exit. It was November of 1992. Walter was a deputy at the time.
"It was something I had to do," Walter said. "I really feel like it could bring us some answers in this case."
Walter said he had to look into evidence he feels was overlooked.
"I know it's a long shot, I will do anything to try and solve this case." Walter said. "I told the family that and got their approval. I can't imagine what they've been through."
The emotional moments unfolded as family and authorities stood by. From the cemetery near Unity Baptist Church, remains were taken to a lab in Scott City and returned a short time later.
Walter said autopsy results from years ago showed no one ever tried to get DNA samples from at least one of Mischelle's wounds that he feels is significant.
"It was on her right hand and it was made by someone fingernails that dug into her skin," Walter said. "Our opinion is whoever created those wounds was probably our suspect."
Walter said he had to find out if those wounds could still hold clues to truly allow Lawless to rest in peace. So, he brought in a special team of experts he feels privileged to have on board: Richard and Selma Eikelenboom of the Netherlands. They are known for their work on high-profile national cases where success often seemed impossible.
"It was clear when the sheriff came to us he was after the truth," Selma Eikelenboom said. "That's what really triggered our interest. We feel very connected to this case since 2009."
They use a technique known as 'Touch DNA'. They try to recreate what may have happened here and pinpoint where Mischelle's suspected killer may have made contact with her. They need seven or eight cells to find a potential match.
"It's difficult," Selma Eikelenboom said. "But the condition of the body was better than we expected."
They took 45 samples, and while it could take months of testing to find a potential match, the couple feels there's hope even after 20 years.
"We were surprised you could still clearly see where the injuries were," Selma Eikelenboom said.
Sheriff Walter said he can't explain what it would mean to him to finally give the Lawless family answers.
"I will never give up on this." Walter said.
You may remember Josh Kezer first went to prison for the Lawless murder, but was declared an innocent man in 2009.
No physical evidence ever linked Kezer to the murder. In fact, blood said to be discovered on Kezer's jacket and in his car turned out to not be blood at all.
Walter hopes in this case these tests point to the real killer.