Crime - Sacto 911

Family hopes memorial service will aid search of missing people

Arlene Seuell and Donna Vasquez plan to honor a beloved sister at a memorial service Saturday, but they also see it as an opportunity to help families with missing loved ones find hope and closure.

In February, Seuell and Vasquez received confirmation that a woman whose skeletal remains were found in Seattle in October 1989 was their sister, Celia Victor, whom they had not heard from in more than 30 years. In December 2014, they saw a TV station’s Facebook posting seeking the identity of the homicide victim in the Seattle cold case. They immediately recognized a photo of the woman as their sister. Seuell and Vasquez contacted the FBI and gave DNA samples. It took more than a year to confirm that the woman known to investigators as “Rita Lang” was Celia Victor.

Seuell said she and her sisters were separated as children, sent by their mother to live with various people she knew. Victor grew up in Sacramento but dropped out of school when she was about 15. She had a number of run-ins with the law, and after a 1977 arrest by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, she was issued an FBI number, which is used to track an individual’s fingerprints. That proved key to reuniting her with her family in death.

In December 2014, the FBI’s Sacramento field office issued a news release describing the Seattle cold case and asked local TV stations to show the woman’s photo. The FBI number had been issued to a woman who gave her name as Brenda N. O’Neil with a stated birth date of April 27, 1958. She listed her address as 2953 San Jose Way in Sacramento, and her booking documents also listed an alias, Brenda Victor.

In Seattle, authorities believed that the skeletal remains of a woman found behind a freight shipping business on Oct. 3, 1989, were those of a woman by the name of Rita Lang, who had failed to appear in court nearly a year earlier and seemingly disappeared. Lang had a number of arrests for drug and prostitution charges in the Seattle area between 1983 and 1988 and had always appeared in court as directed, authorities said.

Lang had listed two individuals as friends or contacts on her booking documents, but one of the contacts was deceased and the King County Sheriff’s Office was unable to find the second contact.

It also was determined that “Rita Lang” was an alias. The FBI number linked to Lang was tied to a number of arrests in which she used a variety of aliases, dates of birth and places of birth. But authorities believed Sacramento might hold the key to her identity.

Vasquez credits social media with solving the mystery of her sister’s identity. She said Victor had periodically checked in with her sisters by phone, but Seuell and Vasquez lost touch with her after they moved and their phone number changed.

“I’m really using this story to help people in the community understand that you need to keep in touch with family no matter what is going on,” Seuell said. “You just never know what will happen.”

Saturday’s memorial service is open to the public, and Seuell and Vasquez invite people who may be searching for missing loved ones to attend. The service will include a presentation on what they have learned in the last year, not only in identifying the Seattle homicide victim as their sister, but also in working to find Victor’s children.

The service is scheduled from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Church of the Sovereign God, 3232 51st Ave., Sacramento.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy