Lee County sheriff's spokesman Kevin Bryant said Saturday that Michelle Bullard's identity had been established through DNA tests, but the cause of death had not been determined.
Bullard went missing Jan. 2, when an armed, masked man broke into the home where she was watching television with three friends in Broadway, authorities said.
The intruder bound the friends with tape and left each in a separate room, then stole cash and small valuables. When they freed themselves, Bullard and the intruder were gone.
Hundreds of volunteers helped state and local law enforcement agencies search for Bullard in three counties and more than 1,000 miles. Her wallet and purse were found a few weeks later on a roadside in southeastern Cumberland County.
A hunter found the remains in an old cemetery
near the Cedar Creek community
in Fayetteville, nearly five miles from where Bullard's belongings had been recovered.
Karen Riojas, Bullard's mother, told WRAL that she had been holding out hope that her daughter was still alive, but was prepared for the possibility that the remains were her daughter's.
"It has definitely been a devastating, horrific, torturing year for me and my family," Riojas told CNN's Nancy Grace earlier this week.
Authorities have not named any suspects in the case. Earlier this year, however, they did identify David Earl Wilson, 49, as a person of interest. Authorities said he loosely fit the description of the home-invasion assailant.
Nineteen hours after Bullard's disappearance, Wilson committed suicide along a Harnett County road when sheriff's deputies tried to pull over his pickup during a traffic stop. Investigators said the two incidents occurred within six miles of each other.
The skeletal remains found Wednesday were discovered near property owned by Wilson's brother.
Wilson's relatives have said that circumstances surrounding Bullard's disappearance and Wilson's suicide were merely a coincidence and that they hope the latest developments in the case will clear Wilson's name.