POSTED: Sunday, July 10, 2011 - 5:00am
UPDATED: Sunday, July 10, 2011 - 1:15pm
NBC NEWS — An Iowa woman missing for more than 40 years and believed to be dead has been found alive.
"It's just really hard to believe. We really thought she was gone," says Grace Kivisto.
Kivisto got a visit from a Knox County Sheriff's investigator Thursday morning saying that her mother Lula Cora Hood, missing since 1970 and thought dead for 15 years, has been found.
"They said they had found my mother alive. It was unbelievable. To us there was no chance, and it happened," Kivisto explains.
The last time she and her six siblings saw their mother was 41 years ago at a wedding.
"It just comes down to a family squabble. She, left but she had left many times before that and had just come back," Kivisto says.
That time she didn't, and then it was decades of searching until 1996.
Mushroom hunters found skeletal remains in an old brickyard and police determined it was Lula Cora Hood.
Back then the DNA testing on the bones couldn't be done but, with facial reconstruction investigators ruled out all other possibilities.
The case was closed.
"We had a memorial service in '96, we believed we had laid her to rest," added Kivisto.
Then several years ago family members came forward offering DNA and then there was the bombshell.
It was not a match with the remains.
"On the 20th we officially reopened the case," said Sgt. Jason Landers with the Knox County Sheriff's Department.
After just nine days of searching this time around, the case of missing Lula Cora Hood is coming to a close.
"I cried, my legs got shaky, and I was in total disbelief because even before all of the brickyard stuff she had been gone so long we already figured she passed," said Kivisto.
Kivisto has spoken to her mother who is now 84 years old.
While investigators aren't releasing many details, she says Hood is in Florida.
The plan is to reconnect as soon as possible and try to make up for all that was lost.
"We've lost so much that there's not much left time-wise. It's time to grab it," she added.
The Knox County Sheriff's Department is still waiting on DNA testing to confirm Hood's relationship with the family members.
That could take a couple of months.
As far as the remains found in 1996, more testing will be done and new facial reconstruction that investigators say will hopefully bring that chapter back to a close.
"The whole brickyard case is at least half complete which is better than what we were nine days ago or a year ago. I think eventually in time we'll figure out who it is, it's going to take catching some breaks and some good tips," said Sgt. Landers.