JACKSONVILLE, TX (KLTV) - Almost eight years ago, an East Texas family told KLTV they feared the worst when they reported their loved one was missing. Friday, they learned their fear was reality.
Shunte Coleman, of Jacksonville, had been missing since July of 2006. Last March, a forester found skeletal remains near Angelina National Forest in San Augustine County, by the intersection of FM 1196 and CR 347. DNA tests confirmed that the remains were those of Shunte Coleman.
Coleman's sister says she is still trying to wrap her mind around the fact that her sister is no longer missing. "I woke up this morning thinking about her... I often wonder... will they ever find her?" asks Frances Hicks.
After years of wondering, Hicks says her family may finally be on the road to finding some peace.
"I think somewhere inside of us, we knew... but this is closure," she says.
Four-year-old Shunte Coleman was the little sister Hicks had always hoped to have. The girls became sisters after Coleman's mom married Hicks' dad. Hicks says Coleman went through some troubled teenaged years and didn't stay in constant contact with her family, but as she got older, Hicks says Coleman was working to turn her life around.
"The very last time I spoke with her, she told me that she was trying to --she was going to-- do better. I told her I was glad and she said, 'I am. I'm going to do better and I'm going to bring my boys by. Can we come see you?' and I said, 'Sure you can. You better,'" recalls Hicks.
However, Coleman never made that visit, and when she stopped contacting her young sons, family members knew something was wrong.
"We might not have been super super close, but she was still my family and I still loved her. I still wanted what was best for her and she knew as her big sister that I did want what was best for her," says Hicks while fighting back tears.
Now that Coleman's family knows what happened to her, their next mission is to find out why. What Hicks does know, is Coleman was loved and her transient lifestyle did not define her.
"She was loved. She wasn't just some nobody that nobody thought of. She was loved," says Hicks. Coleman was in her early 20s when she went missing. She had two young sons who were just toddlers when she disappeared. Family members say those boys do still have their dad.