Yvonne Baldelli of Dana Point went missing shortly after moving to Panama with her boyfriend, Brian Brimager, also of Dana Point, in September 2011.
Her family has searched for her, dealing with foreign embassies and trudging through swamps near where she was last seen, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
The family learned this week her body had been found.
Her father, James Faust, told the newspaper the discovery "gets us closer to getting to the person responsible for her murder and getting justice."
Prosecutors in San Diego, where Brimager is being held, said soon after the couple arrived in Panama, Brimager began emailing a woman with whom he has a young daughter, telling her he would come back to California to help raise their child.
Prosecutors say he was physically abusive toward Baldelli and an indictment presented in June in federal court alleges Brimager killed Baldelli shortly after she was last seen alive Nov. 26, 2011.
The indictment says Brimager went online the next day, searching such topics as "washing mattress blood stain," and that he used Baldelli's email for several weeks after that to send messages to her family and friends making it seem as though she left Panama for Costa Rica with another man.