In late 1996, a California woman named Terri Vierra-Martinez, had hired a consultant to help track her down the daughter she gave up for adoption. She sent a letter to the adoptive parents, Jim and Gloria Matthews, asking for a “reunion” with Jonelle.
“I was thrilled that Jonelle’s mother wanted to contact her, because Jonelle had always wanted that,” Gloria told the Greeley Tribune in January 1997. “But then I had to tell Terri that the little girl she entrusted to us is gone. . . . I had to ask myself, ‘Could I have taken better care of her?’”
The families ended up meeting, and Jonelle’s birth mother said she was grateful to know the truth. “This has put some closure in my life,” she told the Tribune. “Jonelle has always been part of my prayers, ever since she was born, and now — not knowing where she is — I’ll continue to pray for her.”
A crew digging this week in the rural land south of Greeley found human remains, Greeley police said. The Weld County Coroner’s Office later determined that it was Jonelle.
On December 20 1984, Jonelle had just finished singing Christmas carols at her Greeley CO school. Her father, Jim, was still out watching her 16-year-old sister, Jennifer, play a varsity basketball game. Her mother, Gloria, was headed to the airport to care for a sick parent in California, according to a story the next year in the Windsor Beacon.
When her father got home later that evening, he found the TV on and Jonelle’s shoes and shawl lying near a space heater. Jonelle was gone. It is still not known who took her or why or what happened to her in the final hours of her life.