TANGIPAHOA PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Investigators in Tangipahoa Parish Tuesday identified remains found last week as those of Dena Fout missing since 2009.
Kelly Winget, Dena's sister, says you always knew when Dena was nearby.
"Her laugh," said Winget. "She had a laugh that was out of this world -- a contagious laugh and her smile."
Those memories are now weighed down by confirmation from the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office that a skull found by two boys hunting near the St. Charles Mobile Home Park where Dena lived and was last seen in 2009 is a positive match.
"You're overcome with grief, but last night was the first night I could lay my head on my pillow and not have to wonder where my sister was anymore and there was a peace. You feel a peace," added Winget.
Detectives investigating Dena's disappearance from her home initially had followed witness accounts and dog sweeps that placed her walking down North Saint Charles Avenue. Dena's remains were found on the other side of Loranger Road on property never before searched, but still only about 300 yards from her home.
The twist is part of a painstaking journey for family and detectives alike.
"We're not constantly letting people know what's going on with this case, but it definitely has not stood still at any point since 2009. It becomes a part of them. They get connected and are truly passionate about not only finding out what happened, but comforting the family," said Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Spokesperson Dawn Panepinto.
That passion equals boxes and boxes of evidence collected by detectives looking for even the slightest clue in Dena's disappearance. Winget says she will move on with a renewed passion of her own.
"Now it's like a whole new strength is overcoming me to follow this all the way to the end and I want to find out everything and what happened and I feel a strength of this case has got to be solved," said Winget.
Winget adds a Dena Fout Memorial Fund will be set up at Capital One Banks in the Loranger area.