EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — The remains of a missing mother have been returned to her sons after more than four decades.

“It’s just unzipped a whole floodgate of emotion, all different kinds of emotions,” said her son Brion Dinkel.

It’s one of the dozens of cold cases the district attorney’s investigators are working on and using DNA to solve mysteries of the past. It was a double murder tucked in the hills of El Dorado that troubled investigators for the past 40 years and tormented two now adult sons.

“Growing up without your real mom obviously is going to leave a big hole in your heart, a lot of what if’s,” said her son Clinton Dinkel.

Brion and Clinton were both under 2-years-old when their mother and grandmother disappeared. Detectives say it was at the hands of Clifton Mahaney.

“Mahaney abducted them, took them out into the woods, probably killed them near where that skull was recovered,” said Joe Alexander with the District Attorney’s Office.

The case was reopened last year. Rebecca Dinkel and her mother Nancy Webster were last seen at a cafe in Garden Valley 1974 after Mahaney made a threatening call.

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“He was an abusive significant other and took it to that next level to do that ultimate act of domestic violence,” Alexander said.

Their bodies were never found, yet a judge still sentenced the Mahaney to 10 years in prison.

“We are always looking back on cases that we prosecuted saying, did we get the guy?” Alexander said.

In 1981 a skull surfaced when hikers found it in Georgetown and remained a Jane Doe until last year.

Detectives confirmed it was a match.

“There were a lot of unanswered questions in their life and they didn’t really know what happened to their mom, in some ways I think recovering the skull and identifying that it was Rebecca’s and returning it to them is a little bittersweet,” Alexander said. “It has opened up a very painful chapter in their life, but we hope ultimately, in the end, it will provide them with some closure.”

“We’ve always had hopes that someday we would run into her, maybe she would still be alive,” Clinton said.

While they now know that will never happen, they still have so many questions.

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“Why, why would you steal my childhood? Why would you steal such an intricate piece of my life,” Brion said.

While they will never know why they hope this piece of their mother can help them begin to heal.

“I’m very grateful for what they’ve done,” Clinton said. “Now we can actually hold a memorial and put her to rest and move on.”

The brothers will never get to ask Mahaney those questions. After serving his time, he passed away in 2002.

The D.A.’s office has a task force to tackle cold cases, this was one of 60.

“Every murder needs to be solved, every murderer needs to be brought to justice, and every family deserves to know what happened to their loved one,” Alexander said.

Countless hours to help bring closure to dozens of families.

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