After more than 13 years of uncertainty and despair for her missing daughter, Debra Shultz heard a knock on her door that finally brought her some measure of closure.

Standing on her porch was Columbia detective Julie Ray, who would tell her that investigators had found the remains of Megan Shultz Wednesday afternoon after two weeks of searching the city-owned landfill on Peabody Road.

“I was just stunned,” Debra Shultz said. “Julie has worked so hard on this. She came straight from the landfill and she says, 'we found Meg.' She says, when we pulled back the plastic, her body was in the clothing you described to us, a pink tank top, the pants, the flip-flops, the jewelry she had on.”

Boone County prosecutors have charged 38-year-old Keith Alan Comfort, who was Megan Shultz’ husband at the time of her disappearance, with second degree murder.

“Why did you do this to her and us?” Debra Shultz said. “We took you into our lives and accepted you as a family member. My daughter loved you. Why? What did we do that was so wrong?”

Megan Shultz went missing Aug. 4, 2006, from the couple’s apartment in the 1700 block of Amelia Street. For years, Comfort had told authorities the couple had a fight and she left the residence on foot to meet friends he did not know.

Debra Shultz said she always suspected foul play and that Comfort was involved. At the time of Megan’s disappearance, he called Debra Shultz to say she left with friends and had not returned. But when she went to the apartment, all of her daughter’s personal effects were still there. Three weeks later he filed for divorce and retained custody of the couple’s child. Some time later, he remarried and moved to Wisconsin with a new wife.

“They were getting ready, she thought, to go out to dinner for her birthday,” Debra Shultz said. “She had turned 23 on the first (of August). The baby was secure at my mom and dad’s house in Jefferson City. He comes home and all hell breaks loose. He calls me at work after about 23 hours and says she ran off, she left me. Forty-eight hours later, he had the apartment packed. While I was at work, they dumped all of Megan’s property in my front yard and they disappeared.”

Columbia police continued to investigate any tips they received and the case through the years remained open, but saw little headway. Debra Shultz searched across the country for her daughter to no avail, she said.

On Thursday, she credited two investigators with the department as working tirelessly to find justice — Ray and now-retired detective John Short.

“I think it’s just outstanding work done by the people who are still there,” Short said when reached by telephone Thursday. “When I hear they had located someone they believe to be Megan, I was stunned. I know they had to have worked hard at it. Obviously, I was not involved, but I am just glad that hopefully Megan and her family can get some justice.”

It was Ray who got a message to call the Lake Geneva Police that would crack the case wide open. Comfort's motives for coming forward are unknown to the public at this time, but Debra says every year on the date of her daughter's disappearance, Comfort “completely freaked out.”

“The guy, I guess it was just too much for him,” Shultz said. “I didn't know he had a conscience. He ruined my family. I don’t hate him, I'm just not that kind of person. Not right now (forgiveness), he destroyed my whole world.”

DNA testing will be conducted to definitively conclude the remains belong to Megan, which at this point seems to be a formality.

Megan will be cremated and her urn will be buried with family members at Hawthorn Memorial Gardens in Jefferson City, Debra said.

“She will have a really nice memorial stone and be buried next to my grandparents there,” she said. “Sometime in the future we will have a memorial service for friends and family and we will have some closure.”

ppratt@columbiatribune.com

573-815-1718