KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- After nearly 20 years, a KCK mom is finding peace as two men are charged in her daughter's gruesome murder. Jason Lanell Rucker, 34, and Torry Mashone Johnson, 34, have each been charged with first-degree murder.
Thirty-three-year-old Vicky Ernst was found murdered in her KCK home in 1997. Family started to give up hope that they would ever know what happened to their daughter, until Thursday.
"She wanted to have her picture taken so we took a couple of pictures of her. I'm glad we did," Carrolyn Ruiz told FOX 4's Megan Brilley.
Ruiz gripped the edges of a frame that holds a picture showing the last memory she has with her daughter Vicky.
"I gave her the outfit she had on. She thought it was real cute," Ruiz said.
Two days later, on October 22, 1997, Ernst's body was found.
Investigators say she was violently murdered.
"Her throat was slit from here all the way to here. She was tied up. That's the only daughter I had," Ruiz said.
Days after her murder, Ernst's case went cold. Her family had no idea why their fun, loving daughter was so gruesomely murdered.
"Dealing with it the best I could. Every day wondering why?" Ruiz said.
But Thursday morning, she got the phone call she'd been praying for. Detectives used fairly new DNA technology to match DNA found on evidence with DNA of people that had already been arrested for other crimes, and Rucker and Johnson were implicated and charged with first-degree murder.
Johnson is already serving a life sentence in the Missouri Department of Corrections for an unrelated murder in the second-degree for a 2005 Jackson County case. Rucker served time in the Kansas Department of corrections between 2007 and 2013 for aggravated robbery.
The two were teenagers at the time of Ernst's murder, and investigators believe they had no connection to her.
"I do wonder why they did it. It's what I can't understand," Ruiz said.
Ruiz says she may never fully understand why this happened, but now after nearly two decades she's getting the justice her only daughter deserves.
"There's been some times I was sick and I thought I'm gonna die and not know. But I'm gonna make it now," she said.
The district attorney tells FOX 4 because the suspects were 16 and 17 at the time of the murder, they are being charged in juvenile court. The DA has filed a motion to have them charged as adults.