GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) — It’s the news Shelly Lobato has waited decades to learn about her long lost childhood friend, Jonelle Matthews.
“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, they actually finally found her,’” she said.
Yet the discovery came with an outcome Shelly wasn’t quite ready to hear.
“My heart sank. It brought tears to my eyes,” she told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “I felt really bad for her family.”
Shelly grew up just down the street from Jonelle. The two often played together with other kids in their Greeley neighborhood.
“She was always so friendly. She always smiled,” Shelly recalled of Jonelle.
Even when Shelly and Jonelle went to different schools, the young girls found time to be together. It’s one of the final memories Shelly has of her childhood friend.
“We walked home together, chatted, caught up on life. That was the last time I saw her,” explained Shelly.
Just a few weeks later, on Dec. 20, 1984, 12-year-old Jonelle disappeared following a Christmas choir concert at Franklin Middle School. She was reportedly brought home by another friend, but when Jonelle’s parents arrived later their daughter was gone.
“I remember them searching for her,” Shelly said of the police.
Nearly 35 years would pass before Jonelle was finally found. Her remains were discovered at a construction site in Weld County, more than 20 miles from her old home.
“I just feel bad,” Shelly said as her eyes filled with tears. “How could somebody do something like that to a child? And then you think, ‘Do we know that person? Was that someone in our neighborhood?’”
Greeley Police are staying tight-lipped about the ongoing investigation, yet say they’re working “tirelessly” to determine how Jonelle died and who may be responsible. Shelly is hopeful the recent discovery brings some closure for Jonelle’s family – who have since moved out of Colorado – as well as the entire Greeley community.
“But now I think everybody wants answers. Why? Who? They want justice done,” she said.
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