Robin Abrams
February 24, 2017 01:44 PM

Authorities spent Thursday digging up the foundation of a Joliet, Illinois, home — the first new lead in many years in the 1990 disappearance of a former sheriff’s deputy.

Investigators with the FBI and Illinois State Police are excavating a concrete slab in a residential basement on the city’s 100 block of S. Margaret Street in connection with the case of Robin Abrams, a former deputy in Will County who disappeared in October 1990, according to a state police news release obtained by PEOPLE.

Earlier this week, neighbors reported seeing a police dog at the home — which was built the same year Abrams went missing — according to the Daily Southtown.

Abrams’ sister, Jody Abrams Walsh, tells PEOPLE that state police said they had new information that took them to the Joliet home. Walsh – who was on the scene Thursday and Friday – said the residence had been investigated before in connection with the case.

State police said in their release that the home’s current residents are “not involved in the case” and have been temporarily relocated. Police did not specify what prompted investigators to excavate the home, stating only that “new leads” caused the search.

Illinois State Police Lt. Jeffrey Padilla declined to provide further details of those leads to the Southtown.

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The Will County Coroner’s Office tells PEOPLE that they have not been contacted by authorities about the investigation and would be only if remains were found.

“I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I’m hoping and praying she’s going to be found,” Walsh tells PEOPLE.

According to the Southtown, Abrams, then 28, was last seen by her father on Oct. 4, 1990, as they drove past each other on a rural road. Eleven hours later, her 1989 Dodge Daytona was found abandoned and locked — with the keys in the ignition.

Authorities said a resident reported seeing the vehicle dropped off by two men in a tow truck. The Southtown reports that Abrams’ camera was also found in the car.

Three days later, her purse was found several blocks from where the vehicle was parked, according to the Southtown. Her wallet and credit cards were missing from inside.

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‘We Just Want Justice For Her to be Served’

Abrams’ disappearance came just 18 days before she was scheduled to appear at a hearing in a lawsuit she had filed against the sheriff’s office for wrongful termination, according to The Herald-News. The Southtown reports that Abrams was scheduled to testify at a deposition.

Two years before she vanished, Abrams had been in a brief relationship with another Will County sheriff’s employee, who was married, the Herald-News and Southtown report. Walsh claims her sister thought the man was divorced.

After the relationship ended, Abrams was fired, according to the Herald-News. She subsequently obtained an order of protection against the man, who her family had claimed was harassing her after she was dismissed.

The man was listed as a defendant in her civil suit, according to the Herald-News. He and a male relative were also once considered persons of interest in the case, but were never charged.

Walsh said she has long pushed for answers in her sister’s case, telling PEOPLE of Abrams, “Her ultimate goal was to be a lawyer. … She wanted always to help people. She was a very giving person and a hard-working person.”

“She was our baby sister,” Walsh added, “and we love her, and we just want justice for her to be served.”

Neither the FBI’s press office nor the Will County Sheriff’s Office immediately responded to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.

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