updated 5/7/2004 9:59:16 AM ET 2004-05-07T13:59:16

The remains of a 16-year-old girl sat in a sheriff department’s evidence room for years before investigators took the proper steps to identify them.

The family of Robin Lynn Farnsworth received an apology Thursday from White County Sheriff Pat Garrett. Robin disappeared nine years ago and only recently were her remains identified through DNA.

“There’s absolutely no excuse,” Garrett said at a news conference. “These remains were found on Dec. 28, 1997. ... Today is May 6, 2004. You do the math.”

Robin went to school the morning of Jan. 31, 1995, but never came home. Her family reported her missing that day to the Bald Knob Police Department.

“She was happy, and nothing was wrong,” said her mother, Kathy Sefers.

The White County Sheriff’s Department became involved when a hunter discovered human skeletal remains in a wooded area near Russell in on Dec. 28, 1997.

Garrett said he reopened the case after he took office in 2000. But it wasn’t until March 2003 that a sealed cardboard box containing human bones was discovered while evidence was being transferred to a new storage room.

“I picked up the cardboard box,” Garrett said. “There was no writing on this box, and there was no paperwork on this box.”

He said the bones were sent to the state crime lab, which shipped them to the FBI lab in Quantico, Va. Because of a possible decade-long backlog at the FBI, Garrett managed to persuade county court officials to spend $2,500 for testing by a private lab in Reno, Nev.

All the necessary confirmation for identification was received by Wednesday, but Garrett said investigators could not determine a cause of death because only 25 percent of the body was recovered.

Robin’s parents thanked the sheriff for his efforts.

“Thank you, Patrick, for finding my little girl,” Sefers told Garrett. “I have appreciated all that you have done,” added Robin’s father, Terry Farnsworth.

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