Alaska State Troopers say a skull discovered Sunday by a hiker near Girdwood is presumed to be that of a Sutton woman reported missing by her family nearly four years ago.
Nichole M. Millsaps turned 26 on April 1, 2010. That was the last time Andrea Borsetti talked to her little sister, whom she described as a generous, outdoorsy and fun-loving person with a difficult and sometimes criminal history around drugs and alcohol.
"When I didn't hear from her after that I knew something was wrong," Borsetti, 32, said by phone from her home in Mississippi.
Her sister, who didn't "always run with the best crowd," had lost custody of her 3-year-old daughter, Borsetti said.
"The last time that I had talked to her, she told me that she was not doing very well," she said. "I was automatically concerned."
The family filed the missing persons report in May 2010.
On Thursday, they heard from the troopers about last weekend's discovery.
The hiker called troopers just before 11 a.m. Sunday after finding the skull while exploring a wooded area off Boretide Road in Indian, troopers said. Other remains were located later.
Investigators with the state Special Crimes Investigation Unit and State Medical Examiner's Office determined the remains appeared to be those of Millsaps. They're still establishing positive identification.
Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said in an email that an investigation into what happened to Millsaps started prior to the skull being found. Troopers conducted interviews over the past few years and didn't consider this a cold case, Peters said.
"Now that remains have been found, we will hopefully be able to piece everything together to determine how and why she went missing and died," she said.
Borsetti said she and her sister moved to Alaska from Arizona to live with their father. Millsaps graduated from Burchell High School, an alternative school that supports students considered at-risk.
In 2002, she was 18 when troopers arrested her and a 24-year-old man after finding a meth lab at their home in Wasilla, according to an Associated Press report at the time. Investigators found chemicals, scales, packing materials and three firearms. State prosecutors later dismissed the charges against her.
She was convicted of driving under the influence in Kotzebue state court in 2005 and again in Palmer in 2009.
The more recent arrest came after a traffic stop on the Glenn Highway, according to a trooper dispatch at the time. A trooper stopped Millsaps for multiple violations as she drove a red 1993 Toyota with an adult passenger and two children, ages 2 and 4, in the car.
Millsaps was arrested for DUI and child endangerment, though the latter charges were later dismissed.
She reported to Cordova Center, a halfway house in Anchorage, in February 2010 to serve a 30-day jail sentence, according to an online database of court records. But she never appeared for an August 2010 hearing.
Millsaps was last seen in late April or early May 2010, according to an "endangered missing person" bulletin issued by the troopers in October of that year.
Her family doesn't think she took her own life, Borsetti said. She thinks someone involved in her sister's past wanted revenge. She also said her sister told her she planned to take a trip. Troopers over time told the family they found her camp site, canoe, car and other possessions in several different places and suspected a male friend.
Peters in an email said troopers weren't going to comment on "what someone outside our agency might have told you regarding this case. We have released what we can at this time."
Borsetti said she plans to travel to Alaska from Mississippi, where she's a stay-at-home mom, as soon as troopers are sure the remains belong to her sister.
"I just moved down here in November," she said. "I stayed in Alaska so long, hoping they would find her."
Reach Zaz Hollander at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4317.
By ZAZ HOLLANDER