INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Monday marked 18 years since a young woman was found brutally murdered in Independence.
Police are still optimistic they can solve her case.
In 2005, a passerby spotted what she thought looked like a body near a gravel lot on the south side of Pitcher Road, off Blue Ridge Boulevard.
It was 22-year-old Lakota Renville.
Investigators later uncovered she had been beaten and stabbed.
Renville's body was wrapped in a dark blue blanket with a southwestern-style design showing a large steer skull in the center of a desert landscape.
We cropped out the top part in this picture so we don't show the blood on the blanket.
Investigators say the blanket could be the key to finding her killer because of how unique the design is. It's not a blanket you'd find in every store, they say, so they're hoping the image will ring a bell with someone.
The blanket is the only piece of evidence police have released. The case is still open and ongoing, according to the Independence Police Department, so the public has little confirmed details about what steps investigators have taken or what evidence they have.
Renville was Native American and a member of Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribal nation in South Dakota, where her family still lives today.
The Kansas City Indian Center held a ceremony on Monday at the location where her body was found, near 9200 Pitcher Road.
"For her family, we want them to know they're still loved, that they still have relatives here and that we still care. And to just raise awareness about this because somebody knows what happened to her," said Gaylene Crouser, the executive director of the KC Indian Center. "And if we can keep bringing it out, people keep seeing it, that someday people might say what they know and her murder can be solved, and it can bring closure and peace to her family."
Crouser and a few others said prayers and performed a ceremony to honor Renville's life. They laid red roses by a tree and sang ceremonial songs.
The KC Indian Center has been doing this for several years now.
"Part of who we are as Indigenous people is to look out for each other like that," Crouser said.
They also brought a red dress, a symbol of the MMIP / MMIW movement. It stands for "missing and murdered Indigenous people / women."
They are not just raising awareness about Renville; it's about the many other Native American women who are missing or have been murdered in the United States. Many of the cases are still unsolved.
"She symbolizes all of our sisters, nieces, aunties, I mean, all these women out here like that," Crouser said. "You can just put yourself in how you'd feel if it was someone you're related to, 'cause that's just kind of how we think about it. They're still our relatives even when you don't know them."
The I-Team recently highlighted the MMIP crisis in our area in this story about a teenager who went missing from her Belton home.
If you recognize the blanket or have any information about Renville's murder, no matter how small, you can call the Independence police department. Or, you can call Crimestoppers and you will remain anonymous.