After four months, Carmilla Robinson got her answer. It was a conclusion the Akron mother did not want.
Pathologists on Wednesday determined that skeletal remains found in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park earlier this week are those of her daughter, 19-year-old Taylor Robinson, who was last seen by her family May 3.
A potential homicide investigation by rangers and Akron police has begun.
After months of searches, vigils and passing out of fliers in hopes of finding her daughter, Carmilla Robinson met with reporters once again outside her East Archwood Avenue home. This time, it was mere hours after learning a positive identification had been made.
“Now we have an answer. We were in limbo. Now we have closure,” Carmilla Robinson said Wednesday evening. “She’s not a lost child anymore.”
Taylor, a Kent State University student, had not been seen since her mother dropped her off at an Akron home where she worked overnight as a home health-care aide. The next morning, Robinson’s coat and shoes were found inside the home, but she was not there when her mother arrived.
Police long suspected she could be the victim of foul play. Now, anthropologists will try to determine how she died using the few remains found by chance in a thicket of woods by hikers on Monday.
“You could have just given her back,” Carmilla Robinson said in comments directed at Taylor’s assailant. “You could have just brought her home. I just don’t know why you thought you had to hurt her.”
The hikers found a jawbone and other skeletal remains in a heavily wooded area off a trail in the national park.
Positive identification came when the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office compared the bones with dental records Taylor Robinson’s family had provided to pathologists.
Police initially told Carmilla Robinson that the decomposed remains appeared to date prior to the spring, when she last saw her daughter.
Taylor helped special-needs children, played volleyball and softball and served as a church volunteer, her mother said.
“She wasn’t a person who deserved to have her body found in the park,” she said.
Cause of death sought
The skeletal remains are expected to be sent to Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., where a team of anthropologists will try to determine how Taylor died. That process could take weeks, said Gary Guenther, spokesman for the medical examiner’s office.
Remnants of what appears to be a bra also were found near the bones. No other items or clothing were found at that site.
National park rangers and law enforcement officials continued combing the densely wooded area Wednesday. Two hikers made the initial discovery by chance when they ventured off a trail, Chief Ranger Chris Ryan said.
The search area centered on the Valley Picnic Area, off Riverview Road, about a mile south of state Route 303.
The picnic area remained closed overnight as rangers uncovered unspecified additional evidence late Wednesday afternoon. In addition, rangers collected several articles of women’s clothing from a patch of woods off Pine Lane, about a mile from where the remains were found. Rangers are unsure if the clothing is connected to the case.
Meanwhile, Ryan said the search for evidence will continue today with the FBI’s Evidence Response Team. The terrain where the remains were found is sloped and heavily covered with trees and vegetation.
“At this point we do not know how the remains ended up to be there,” Ryan said. “Whether or not they were dropped off there or even if there was a potential homicide there, we don’t know.”
Carmilla Robinson thanked the hikers who found the remains and “did the right thing” by calling authorities.
“It’s not [the outcome] we were hoping for,” she said, “but you brought our baby home.”
Akron police, the FBI and two private investigators have been working to solve Taylor’s disappearance.
The private investigators, Tom Fields and Tim Dimoff, asked for the public’s help in identifying Taylor’s assailant and promised they would bring the killer to justice.
“People in this community know exactly what happened,” Dimoff said.
He said it took at least two people to move Taylor’s body and speculated that a struggle in the house preceded her death.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.