For more than two decades, Carmela Cameron has lived with the thought that someone got away with murdering her daughter.
Beth Ann Cameron, a 24-year-old Navy sailor who served on the USS Holland, was found dead Jan. 1, 1988, in some woods in North Charleston. Her body was so badly decomposed that experts couldn't tell exactly how she died.
Since then, Carmela Cameron has experienced more death and disappointment.
In 1995, her husband died. In 2001, investigators announced that new DNA evidence could lead to a suspect. But that didn't happen.
She started to think that, like her husband, she would never learn who killed her daughter.
But Cameron expressed renewed hope Tuesday after local and Navy investigators announced that they're trying to match new DNA samples to ones they are collecting from people who knew the victim.
"I'm 84, so I don't have much time to find out," the Huntsville, Ala., woman said. "It's painful. Hopefully I can have some peace before I leave this earth."
The new evidence is "touch DNA," or skin cells left after a person touches something. Military lab experts now are comparing such samples found at the scene to ones recently taken from former members of Sugar & Spice, a North Charleston escort service that the police said Cameron was "affiliated" with.
"Previous employees of (the escort service) may have information about her murder," police spokesman Spencer Pryor said in a statement. "Investigators are searching for other people who, while they had nothing to do with the murder, may have served on the Holland ... and might have helpful details."
Cameron left the ship on Dec. 17, 1987, the last day she was seen at an apartment complex on Crossroads Drive. Her body was found in the nearby woods.
Her mother recalled making plans with her daughter to celebrate Christmas. Beth Cameron had lamented not getting permission to return home to Alabama, so her parents planned to visit her.
Carmela Cameron later got a notice that her daughter was AWOL from the ship. And the next time she heard from the Navy, she learned that her daughter was dead.
Detectives developed "persons of interest," but the investigative leads went cold until recently, when the local police department and cold-case units from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service started examining the fresh evidence.
"You don't like to think about someone killing someone and getting away with it and being in society," Carmela Cameron said. "But you just have to keep hoping that they're going to find out something."
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or on Twitter at @offlede.