Missy Ward was never buried after she was slain six years ago.
And Hamilton County Sheriff's Office investigators believe she may have been killed by a serial killer.
No one has been charged with her slaying.
However, after detectives interviewed Chris Johnson earlier this month in connection with the brutal rape and kidnapping of two young teen girls, investigators returned to where Ward's body was found off Cash Canyon Road near a grassy area by the Tennessee River.
Now Ward's family has hope that there will be justice. She may finally be laid to rest.
Dawn Johnson, 44, Ward's older sister, said Monday the family opted to leave her sister's bones with authorities rather than bury the remains and hold a memorial service.
"We just left them there. We were hoping one day that they would find someone. We didn't want to bury it if they needed it for evidence," Johnson said. "If we needed it for evidence, it would be there. But if they do catch the killer, we can bury her."
Ward struggled with an addiction with meth. So did her husband at the time.
The couple has two sons who are about 18 and 16 now, Johnson said. The boys were raised by their grandparents.
Drugs ruined her family and drove her children out of her life, her sister said.
Dawn Johnson would marry and have a family, but Missy Ward's life would spiral out of control.
"We grew up without a father. I think she wanted a man's love so bad. And she would find the wrong guys," Johnson said. "She had a good heart. She believed in God. ... She would always say to me, 'I want somebody to love me like your husband loves you.'"
Ward was all too trusting and would sometimes take trips with people she barely knew, Johnson said.
She was last seen getting into a late model red Ford pickup truck with a white camper top on Oct. 29, 2004, at a supermarket. The truck description is similar to the pickup Chris Johnson owns -- a red 1981 Ford F-250 pickup, which is now impounded for evidence.
It's unclear if Ward and Chris Johnson knew each other. Both used meth. They lived only a couple blocks apart from each other.
Chris Johnson has not been charged in Ward's slaying but is considered a "person of interest," according to authorities.
Ward, 33, wasn't able to care for her boys toward the end of her life. She would call Johnson and say how much she missed them.
"Well, you know, just get help and you can have your boys," Johnson would say. "Then she would call me and say, 'Can you go get the boys so I can go see them?' I would go get them and they would come stay at the house for the weekend. It was always hard for her to send them back home.
"Then we would talk and she would promise, 'I'm going to change.' She never did." Johnson said. "I think she would have kept trying."
Contact Beth Burger at email@example.com or 423-757-6406.