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Norwich — City police said Wednesday that bones found Sunday in a wooded area of Montville have been identified as those of a Norwich woman who had been missing since Dec. 31, 2006.
Police said the remains are those of Erika Cirioni, who was reported missing Jan. 3, 2007, by her mother, Carol Cirioni.
"I expected it, that she was gone, but the realization now, it's just too much," Carol Cirioni said Wednesday evening after two detectives came to her home and told her the news.
Cirioni has had custody of Erika's two young sons since her daughter went missing. "I explained to the youngest, who's 10, that she's in a better place now, she's with her father, her uncle, and they're taking good care of her and nothing can ever hurt her again," she said.
Lt. J. Paul Vance, state police spokesman, said the discovery of the remains was made around 4 p.m. Sunday by a group of children playing in the woods. He said it appears that the remains, which were partially buried, had been there for at least a year.
Norwich police had contacted Cirioni Tuesday to request access to Erika's dental and medical records.
"I didn't really think that was her body out there," Cirioni said, crying. "I'm just numb. She was my baby."
A section of Oxoboxo Dam Road remained closed for a day and a half this week as state and local police, the state medical examiner, a forensic anthropologist and other experts investigated what had been deemed a crime scene.
The remains were taken to the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where the identification was confirmed Wednesday.
The incident remains under investigation, Norwich police said.
Cirioni said police do not yet know the cause of death but that more tests will be done. As for her daughter's killer, Cirioni said, "I hope they find them and they hang them. I believe in an eye for an eye. My daughter did nothing to deserve to be killed."
Erika Cirioni was last seen on Division Street on Dec. 31, 2006. Her cellphone was last used at 11:50 that night. She was 26 years old.
Since then, it's been "hell," her mother said Wednesday. "I have to go to work, pretend like everything's rosy and dandy, but inside I'm screaming," she added.
In January 2011, Cirioni spoke to The Day after her only son, Dominic, committed suicide. Cirioni said then that Dominic had blamed himself for Erika's disappearance.
On Wednesday, though, Cirioni said she felt some measure of closure and thanked the Norwich police for their help and support through the years of wondering and waiting to hear about her daughter. "They told me they'd find her," she said, "and they found her."
Anyone with information about Erika's disappearance is asked to call Detective Darren Powers at (860) 886-5561, the anonymous tip line at (860) 886-5561, ext. 500, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.