PHOENIX - Family and friends gathered to release balloons and butterflies in memory of a missing North Phoenix mother on Christmas day, which also happened to be the day Christine Mustafa and her twin sister were born.
Now with her loss, Mustafa's sisters had one Christmas wish, and that was to find their sister's remains and to bring her home to rest.
Phoenix police, along with volunteers from multiple law enforcement agencies, have spent the last nine weeks searching the Buckeye Landfill for human remains.
"It's sad and it's unfortunate to have to turn to a landfill for answers. Thank you is not enough, how do you express your gratitude for something they continue to do, and they're not giving up hope," said Linda Donaldson, Mustafa's sister.
Family members held balloon releases in Arizona and Maryland, praying for answers and closure to the case.
Christine's oldest daughter read aloud a letter she had penned for her mother.
"Dear mom, it breaks my heart to not see you or hear your beautiful soothing voice again. I pray that you are resting up in heaven. I will forever treasure our mother-daughter moments. I know that you are spiritually with me, looking over me, until we meet again," said her daughter.
Mustafa was reported missing May 11. Her live-in boyfriend, Robert Interval, now sits in jail awaiting his Feb. 22 trial on first degree murder charges in relation to Mustafa's murder.
Family members told police that Mustafa feared Interval and planned to leave him. Police checking on Mustafa, found her car, purse, and cellphone at the couple's home.
Court documents state that in the days leading up to May 10th, Mustafa confided in her sisters that she was afraid of her boyfriend. She was planning to leave with her baby, and get an order of protection against him.
Court documents state her boyfriend was allegedly calling her repeatedly at work with accusations of cheating, and even threatened to kill her.
After she failed to show up at work and seemingly vanished without a trace, court records state police picked the locks and made entry into Mustafa's home and searched the house, but did not find Mustafa.
Officers did find her purse, which contained her wallet, social security card, and credit cards in plain sight. Her cell phone was discovered on the bathroom floor between the tub and toilet.
As they were investigating, authorities said her boyfriend arrived home and told police she left after a verbal argument, but didn't take her Nissan Cube because it had a flat tire. Court records state police did not observe a flat tire on the vehicle.
On May 11, the Department of Child Safety called Phoenix police for assistance on a welfare check. Mustafa's family contacted DCS to check up on the baby.
Officers greeted the boyfriend at the front door and confiscated a loaded hand gun. He told officers he had to clean the front room of his house because the dog had defecated and urinated in the home. He also allegedly told police his daughter had bed bugs so he had to use a cleaning solution to get rid of them from the mattress and linen.
DCS investigators decided to remove the child from the home.
On May 15, court records state detectives spoke to the boyfriend's sister who stated her brother was acting "paranoid" and made statements she found concerning, such as "I took it to far" and "I can never unsee the things I saw."
Court records indicate the boyfriend told his sister he got into an argument with Mustafa and she had attacked him first.
That same day a search warrant was served at the couple's home near Cave Creek and Deer Valley roads. In Mustafa and her daughter's room, court records state police found pillow cases and bed sheets "which contained a small amount of possible blood stained material."
In the same bedroom "luminol was used during processing and sprayed on the walls. The luminol reacted indicating a positive response to blood or other biological matter."
Family members said they had not communicated with Interval since his arrest.
Police say the landfill search for human remains will continue for at least three more weeks.