A transient woman was seen walking along Connie Drive in Sacramento, holding a human skull on a stick, in October 2016.
Investigators were eventually led to an abandoned homeless encampment on Crosby Way. There, the rest of the remains, identified recently as 26-year-old Mai Ker Thao, were found, according to KTLA sister station KTXL in Sacramento.
"We're trying to find out what she was doing and who she was with the last week of her life, and that's our missing place in her timeline," Sacramento Police Detective Scot Krutz said. "And that could lead us to what happened ultimately in the end."
Identifying Thao took some time, but her distinctive red hair dye and help from family eventually put a name on the remains.
"Through that reference, familial DNA, they were able to positively identify the victim," Sacramento Police Detective Eddie MacAulay said.
Now, Thao's sister wants answers.
"Why? Why did you have to do that?" Thao's sister, Mai Dai, told KTXL through tears.
Investigators are looking at the transient woman as a person of interest as they try to find Mai Ker Thao's killer. They could not report any further details about the investigation or the transient woman.
Still, there are good times that her sister tries to draw strength from.
"We would like to do each other's makeup. We would just hang out and drink a little and just tell jokes all night. And laugh at each other all night and reminisce about our silly past," she told KTXL.
Her family can pinpoint the exact time when things began to fall apart for Mai Ker Thao.
"It was after she had a miscarriage and then everything just went and fell apart. She just changed," Mai Dai Thao said. "She was never the same anymore. She distanced herself from us."
Despite her struggles, Mai Ker Thao's family says she still tried to be there for her family.
Anyone who may have more information about Thao's death is asked to contact the Sacramento Police Department.