ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Two years after she disappeared during a camping trip, a Kodiak teenager has been declared dead.
The mother of Jonnie Renee White says the verdict by a state coroner's jury will allow her to hold a memorial service and to pursue a civil lawsuit against a man she believes killed her daughter.
''I'm so relieved,'' said Jane Speight. ''I feel like celebrating. It will be a great relief on the whole family.''
Jonnie, 16, vanished two years ago 40 miles south of Kodiak city and has long been presumed dead by her mother and others who knew her.
''I knew from the first day,'' said Speight, who believes she knows who killed her daughter.
Speight accused Ronald Scott Tennison of wrongful death in a civil action filed in Kodiak Superior Court just hours after the coroner's jury concluded Thursday the girl died of unknown causes on July 19, 1998.
Jonnie was on a camping trip with Tennison and his then-girlfriend, Sharon Dawson Raikoglo, when she disappeared.
The girl's body was never found, and neither was any evidence suggesting what happened to her. Other than the circumstances of her disappearance, no proof pointing to Tennison has emerged.
Tennison was subpoenaed to testify by phone at Thursday's hearing but he declined to answer any questions.
Testimony from Raikoglo and others outlined events leading up to the girl's disappearance for the coroner's jury.
She and Tennison hired Jonnie to come to a music festival as a baby sitter for Raikoglo's young daughter, Raikoglo testified.
Late on their second night of camping, Tennison and the girl went to gather wood, Raikoglo said.
Tennison told troopers he drove to a beach and got his truck stuck while doing brodies. Tennison said he and Jonnie decided to sleep in the cab of the truck.
Tennison said when he woke up, Jonnie was gone. He said he assumed she walked back to the campground, but she hasn't been seen since.
Clothes and scrapings from Tennison and his truck were tested by the state crime lab but no trace of blood or semen was found, said trooper Steve Hall.
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