AURORA — A Yorkville man has been arrested and charged with murder in the fatal shooting of an Aurora woman who went missing 19 years ago and whose remains were discovered in Kane County in late 2020.

Prince L. Cunningham, 49, was arrested Tuesday and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Tyesha Bell, who was 22 years old at the time she was killed, Kane County court records show.

In the early morning hours of May 9, 2003, Bell stepped outside of her West Side apartment in Aurora after receiving a mysterious phone call and was never seen again. She went missing, leaving two daughters behind, from an apartment she shared with her sister in the 800 block of North Randall Road in Aurora.

Law enforcement officials said Wednesday that Bell left to meet Cunningham, the father of her almost 2-year-old daughter whom she was dating.

In December 2020, a surveyor found a skull on property being developed in Montgomery, officials said. Kane County Coroner Rob Russell said his office was called to the wooded area, where additional skeletal remains, clothing and some personal items were found in a shallow grave.

Russell worked with a dentist and bone specialist to create a profile of the person from the remains and Aurora police matched the DNA against a sample from Bell that was kept after she went missing.

An autopsy determined she died of a gunshot wound to the back of her head, officials said.

Police said from the outset they sensed foul play, believing she expected to return to her apartment because she left her money and purse at home, Beacon-News archives show. She also left the television on and candles burning in her bedroom when she left.

Early on, police questioned a person of interest in the case, but no one was charged with a crime, according to Beacon-News archives.

After her remains were found, Aurora Police Cmdr. Jack Fichtel said while they followed up on numerous leads, "our frustration mounts considering we believe someone knows what happened and has yet to come forward."

Detectives launched airplane and dog searches and even drilled holes in the floor of a suspect's home, but the searches turned up very little, Beacon-News archives said.

Bell was described as a headstrong woman who loved shopping and dancing, her mother told The Beacon-News. Her mother Lorna Smith embarked on a mission to keep her daughter's case in the spotlight, from raising $10,000 for a reward to driving around with flyers in the back of her car with information about her daughter.

The family repeatedly said Tyesha never would have abandoned her daughters, Tiniya and Tiarra, who Smith went on to raise as her own.

Cunningham, who now lives on the 500 block of Powers Court in Yorkville, was indicted Tuesday and Kane County Judge Clint Hull signed a warrant for his arrest. He was apprehended by the U.S. Marshals Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force later that day, according to officials.

Cunningham appeared at a bond call Wednesday morning where his bail was set at $5 million. He is due back in court on June 24.

Originally published on pantagraph.com, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.

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