Nancy Watkins of Dayton said the hardest thing she's ever had to do was tell her oldest son his brother, Paul's, bones may have been found in the desert.
"We've been praying lately for an answer either way because we need some closure, but ..." she said, her voice trailing off. "I really thought he was still alive. I was hoping. I was holding onto that hope."
Paul Watkins, 29, has been missing since Feb. 16, 2002. A prospector in the El Dorado Canyon east of Minden found human remains Saturday alongside a creek and only 1,200 yards from where Watkins' disabled car was found Feb. 20, 2002.
According to Nancy Watkins, Paul's wallet and car keys were found with the remains, but positive identification is awaiting dental record comparison. Nancy and Bob Watkins, who learned of the discovery Monday, went on a scheduled trip to visit their other son, Todd Watkins, in Bridgeport, Va.
Nancy Watkins said she hasn't yet told her daughters.
"When we find out for sure, we'll call the girls," she said.
She blames schizophrenia for taking her son wandering into the desert.
She said in the weeks before his disappearance, Watkins had stopped taking his medication. His parents were concerned for him, and urged him to continue taking his pills, but Nancy Watkins said she couldn't force him.
"I think the voices told him to drive out there," she said. "I just think that he was hallucinating and the voices were strong and they must have told him to go up there."
She feels angry that if this is her son, he wasn't found earlier.
At least one organized search of the area was made by Search and Rescue personnel from Lyon and Douglas counties. Sheriff Sid Smith said in February another search would be organized when the snow melted.
"I'm very upset that they didn't find him then," she said. "It's been 15 months."
The Watkinses are expected to return to Northern Nevada next week. Nancy Watkins said she isn't sure if the latest development will change their plans at all. The couple haven't discussed burial plans for their son.
"In the back of our minds we kind of knew he was probably gone," she said. "Losing a child is the worst thing that could happen to anyone."
Investigator Robin Hall of the Lyon County Sheriff's Department said the coroner is awaiting an expert's review of the dental records for confirmation. The records were delivered Tuesday.