GREELEY, Colo. (AP) — The remains of a 12-year-old girl who disappeared in 1984 after performing at a Christmas holiday concert have been found by construction workers in Colorado, police said Thursday.
Greeley police Sgt. Joe Tymkowych said the remains were identified as those of Jonelle Matthews, who was last seen being dropped off at her home by a friend and a friend’s father, The Greeley Tribune reported .
No one was ever arrested following her disappearance on Dec. 20, 1984. Jonelle had performed with a middle school honor choir shortly before she disappeared, authorities said.
The Tribune reported Wednesday that workers were constructing a new pipeline in rural Weld County when they discovered bones Tuesday night. Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams said his deputies were treating the recovery of the remains as a homicide investigation.
Tymkowych said Thursday he could not comment on how authorities were able to identify the remains as those of the young girl so quickly. He also declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
“We’re still chasing down leads,” Tymkowych told the Tribune.
Greeley is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Denver. The location of the construction site where the remains were found is along a rural route in Weld County.
Police told the Tribune last December that they had reopened the case and were reviewing old interviews and conducting new ones. They appealed to the public for information from anyone who might of seen or spoken with Jonelle in the days or weeks before she disappeared.
Last December, on the 34th anniversary of her disappearance, police released a video of the Franklin Middle School holiday concert. It shows Jonelle standing on a garland-adorned staircase with her 7th-grade classmates singing “Jingle Bells.” She has short, thick dark hair and smiles slightly.
She was last seen at 8 p.m. that night entering her house, authorities said. At the time, Jonelle lived with her father, Jim, her mother, Gloria, and a sister, Jennifer. She was active at the Sunny View Church of the Nazarene.
Police also said they would look at new investigative techniques that weren’t available in 1984, but details of that effort weren’t immediately known.
Then-President Ronald Reagan mentioned Jonelle’s disappearance in March 1985 when he addressed a group of newspaper editors in Washington, D.C., and asked them to publish photos of missing children nationwide, calling it a “mission of mercy.”
Reagan said the girl “would have celebrated a happy 13th birthday with her family just last month. But five days before Christmas, Jonelle disappeared from her home.”