But with that relief comes confusion. "It's closure for me and my family, but also raises new questions now. It's sad. We're sad," Jennifer Mogensen, Jonelle's sister, told KUSA-TV.
Added Jonelle's childhood friend, Shelly Lobato, to WFOR-TV: “My heart sank. It brought tears to my eyes. I felt really bad for her family.”
Jonelle's body was found last week by workers laying a pipeline in Colorado. The last time anyone had seen 12-year-old Jonelle, she had just taken part in a Christmas concert in 1984.
After the concert, she was dropped off at her home outside Denver. Her mother, father and sister were all out that night, so the house was empty. When Jonelle's dad came home an hour later, she was gone. Jonelle was never seen alive again.
At the time, officials believed her disappearance was a possible kidnapping. But authorities were tight-lipped about the baffling case, saying they needed to keep certain details private to ensure the right suspect was caught.
Now, the discovery of Jonelle's body, about 20 miles from her old home, has opened up whole new avenues in the investigation. Authorities said the case is being treated as a homicide but did not reveal a cause of death.
“I think everybody wants answers," Lobato said. "Why? Who? They want justice done."