Body of Missing Colorado Girl Found at Pipeline Site 34 Years After She Disappeared

Human remains found at an excavation site in Weld County, Colorado, have been identified as belonging to a girl who went missing nearly 35 years ago.

An oilfield crew working on an excavation for a pipeline discovered the remains on Tuesday, Greeley Police Sgt. Joe Tymkowych told CNN. They have been identified as Jonelle Matthews’, who went missing in December of 1984 at the age of 12. Her case drew national attention, and she was even mentioned by then-President Ronald Reagan, who was championing initiatives to find missing children at the time.

Tymkowych did not go into detail about how officials determined the remains belonged to Matthews, but local outlet the Greeley Tribune reported that the identification was made following the coroner’s examination.

The outlet reported that it received two anonymous photos from the oil site, which showed a human skull that had teeth with braces still on them, and tatters of red and blue clothing.

When Matthews went missing, she had last been seen wearing red and blue clothing at a Christmas concert, and she wore braces, the Greeley Tribune reported.

The police are still trying to solve the mystery of Matthews’ disappearance. Tymkowych told the outlet that police are “chasing down leads” for suspects after this week’s discovery.

“It’s a long-pursued, heavy-hearted kind of case,” he said. “As time went on, we knew there was a possibility we wouldn’t get her back. This is possibly a piece of the puzzle that will help us to solve the case.”

Matthews’ parents, Jim and Gloria, have retired and now live in Costa Rica. Matthews’ sister, Jenn Mogensen, told the Greeley Tribune Thursday that they are both still processing the discovery.

“We’re grateful for the closure, but other questions have now been raised,” Mogensen, who now lives in Washington State, told the outlet, adding that the three of them will soon return to Colorado and will likely hold a memorial service in Greeley although the family no longer lives there.

Matthews went missing on December 20, 1984, after performing in her middle school’s choir concert. She was dropped off at home — no one else was home at the time — by her friend and her friend’s dad, outlets report. Mogensen told the Associated Press that Jim was attending her basketball game and Gloria was out of town that night.

“I’m grateful for this closure after 34 years,” Mogensen said. “It does bring up some old wounds and some more questions, maybe, of what happened. But we’ve received so much love and support already.”

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