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South L.A. Search Fails to Find Evidence of Long-Missing Girl

Times Staff Writers

Jeffrey Tymich said he would never forget the last time he saw his 6-year-old sister, Crystal, or what they were doing moments before she disappeared from their Hyde Park neighborhood.

It was 11 years ago, and he said his sister and his two brothers were throwing peaches over the roof of a house to see who could throw the farthest.

Tymich, who is now 20, said he and his brothers ran home when they heard their grandmother calling them. The family was planning to watch the movie “The Lion King.”

When the boys looked back, their sister was gone.

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Crystal’s disappearance June 30, 1994, has haunted this close-knit Southwest L.A. neighborhood for more than a decade and remains a mystery to authorities.

But the case of the missing girl was revived in dramatic fashion Thursday when more than 100 Los Angeles Police Department detectives, FBI agents and Los Angeles County coroner’s personnel swept into the neighborhood and began searching the crawl space of a house directly across the street from Crystal’s home.

The search at Brynhurst Avenue and 60th Street appeared aimed at unearthing the girl’s remains, but investigators came up empty-handed. A collection of bones discovered was from fish, cows and dogs, authorities said.

Although authorities declined to publicly link the search to Crystal’s disappearance, members of her family said they were told several months ago that the department had reopened the case -- giving new life to the old mystery.

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Joyce Green and her daughter were among the scores of residents who pressed up against the police tape Thursday to catch a glimpse of the grim search.

Green, 50, rushed to the scene after she saw Crystal’s face flash on the television screen.

“I’ll never forget her little face. I came down here, and I was hoping they found her, because at least there would be some closure,” she said.

“I was so excited, I said, ‘I can’t believe it; oh, my God, they found her.’ But I guess they didn’t,” Green said. “This is so sad, because we were hoping they found her after all these years. Poor little thing.”

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Although Crystal disappeared years before the advent of Amber Alerts, her case garnered enormous attention.

Her smiling portrait appeared on milk cartons, billboards and trucks and was shown on television’s “America’s Most Wanted.” City officials offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to her recovery, and investigators considered hiring a psychic to help crack the case.

Despite the efforts, the case eventually grew cold.

Thursday’s search stemmed from a tip to the FBI about the suspicious burial of an animal around the time the girl disappeared, a law enforcement official said.

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Alice Williams, 90, stood on her porch and watched investigators swarm over the nearby property but couldn’t bring herself to go down the street. Her voice shaking, she recalled that Crystal used to play with Williams’ grandchildren.

She still keeps a snapshot of the girl in her Bible.

“She used to run into my house and say, ‘Candy, candy, candy.’ She loved candy,” Williams said.

As coroner’s employees and FBI agents squeezed through windows in the crawl space and sifted through the soil Thursday afternoon, Williams wondered about what they had found.

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“Maybe the mystery is solved today,” she said.

Others had the opposite wish.

Tymich said he still held out hope that his sister was alive.

“I don’t want them to find someone related to me, I don’t want them to find anything,” he said.

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“It’s like everybody’s asking, ‘So I heard there’s a body in the house.’ That’s my sister you’re talking about,” he said.

“If anything, she could be anywhere else alive. I have a strong feeling she could still be alive,” Tymich said.

As he spoke in front of his home, which his family has lived in for three generations, Tymich held a worn photograph of a teenage girl that resembled his sister. The picture was taken by a group that tries to help runaway teens.

He said he had always imagined that Crystal was kidnapped by someone who wanted to have a child of their own.

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Tymich said the house that was being searched used to belong to a female reverend who frequently invited neighborhood children in for religious services.

She no longer lives there, he said.

Today, members of Crystal’s family still live on Brynhurst in the rambling Craftsman home. It’s on a working-class street of palm trees, old houses and newer apartment buildings just east of Inglewood.

For Tymich, that day in 1994, when he was just 9 years old, is never far from his mind.

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“We were all little kids at the time and we were playing in the back of a house, and there was a peach tree,” he recalled.

“We were throwing peaches over the roof to see who could throw them the furthest,” he said. “Then my brothers left, and I ended up following them. And then we noticed that my sister was no longer behind us.

“This will always be there for the rest of my life.”

Times staff writers Jessica Gresko and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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