NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There were major developments Friday in the case of a suburban substitute teacher missing for the last 12 months.

Her body has not been found, but a man is now charged with her murder, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.

With her lovely smile, Jessica Lopez was a bright light for her family and students who had her as a substitute teacher.

Lopez was last seen at a motel in Orange County in November 2019. Her car was found abandoned in a Newburgh movie theater parking lot.

“Jessica Lopez’s body has not been recovered. We are not hopeful that it will ever be recovered,” Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler said Friday, despite intense searches of many wooded areas more than a year ago.

Hoovler said evidence allows a murder charge against Lopez’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Matthew Louis Mercado.

Investigators believe Mercado killed Lopez as she tried to leave the motel, then stole $1,500 using her bank card and disposed of her body.

“This case is going to rely on a lot of video evidence, a lot of timeline evidence, and a lot of evidence of the absence of evidence,” Hoovler said, meaning evidence such as: no cell phone, social media or other activity from the victim.

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It has been a very difficult few years for the Lopez family. Her brother died in 2018. She had quit her substitute teaching job in order to care for her ill father.

Lopez’s surviving brother, Ernesto, hopes the suspect will agree to help the family recover remains to bury Lopez with dignity.

“We just want to find a body, have some closure for our family and have justice for Jessica,” he said.

“They’ve been without her in their lives for over a year now. Her mother, her father, her brother live with the constant pain of her loss,” said New Windsor Police Chief Robert Doss.

Mercado was arrested last year for burglarizing a room at the motel were Lopez was last seen. He’s been held on bond ever since, as cops built the murder case against him.

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