Human remains found by construction workers in Colorado earlier this week have been identified as a 12-year-old girl who vanished after singing at a Christmas concert three decades ago.
The disappearance of Jonelle Matthews in 1984 captured the attention of the nation and of President Ronald Reagan, CBS News reports. She had seemingly vanished from her small northern Colorado town of Greeley after singing "Jingle Bells" with classmates at a Christmas concert held on Dec. 20. She was a member of the Franklin Middle School Honor Choir.
She was taken home by a friend and that friend's father and was last seen entering her family home. The house was empty when she was brought home.
Months after she vanished, Reagan referenced her case as his administration helped open a national center for missing children and pushed for the faces of missing kids to be put on milk cartons.
There never seemed to be any solid leads as to where Matthews, who would be 47 today, went. Nobody was ever arrested in connection to her disappearance.
Then, on Tuesday, construction workers in Weld County came across human bones, the Denver Post reports. They were constructing a new pipeline when they made the gruesome discovery, according to the Associated Press.
The area is about 20 miles away from Matthews’ family home.
On Thursday, police announced that those bones were Matthews'.
Even though one part of the puzzle has been solved, it opens up questions as to what happened to the seventh grader. Officials are now treating the case as a homicide investigation.
The victim’s sister Jennifer Mogensen, told the Associated Press her sibling was “a strong, independent, opinionated 12-year-old.”
"My heart sank. It brought tears to my eyes," childhood friend Shelby Lobato told CBS Denver after the bones were positively linked to Matthews. "I felt really bad for her family."
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