Former Idaho gubernatorial candidate charged with murder, kidnapping in 1984 Colorado case
Ruth Brown, Idaho Statesman
Published at | Updated at
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Former Idaho gubernatorial candidate Steve Pankey, of Twin Falls, has been indicted in a Colorado cold case involving the 1984 kidnapping and killing of a 12-year-old girl.
The case revolves around Jonelle Matthews, who went missing from her parents’ Greeley home on Dec. 20, 1984. Her body wasn’t discovered until July 24, 2019, in a field in rural Weld County. Greeley, north of Denver, is in Weld County.
The Weld County Sheriff’s Office’s warrant list on Tuesday showed an outstanding warrant for Pankey on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a crime.
In September 2019, Pankey, 69, was interviewed by the Idaho Statesman and repeatedly said that he had nothing to do with the girl’s disappearance. He maintained that he had never met her.
Pankey lived in Greeley in the 1980s with his then-wife. Last year, the Twin Falls Police Department verified that it had executed a search warrant on Sept. 4, 2019, at Pankey’s condo in the 300 block of Elm Street North.
The search warrant was issued after a Colorado construction crew found Jonelle’s remains while excavating.
Pankey was arrested at his home in Idaho, taken into custody at Ada County Jail, and will be transported to Colorado.
The Greeley Police Department previously called Pankey a person of interest in the case.
According to a copy of Pankey’s indictment, Pankey is accused of taking the girl from her home on the night of Dec. 20, 1984, sometime between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and fatally shot her in the head sometime during the kidnapping.
Authorities claim Pankey went to the same church as Jonelle’s family at the time of the girl’s death. He became a suspect in early- to mid-2018.
In May, Pankey unsuccessfully ran for Twin Falls County sheriff. In August, Pankey verified that he planned to testify before a grand jury in Colorado. He told the Statesman that he’d been waiting for 35 years to tell his story, and was confident he was not a suspect.
“I am being transparent. I am not running from this,” he said in August. “I am more than eager to answer any questions under oath.”
Pankey was a Constitution Party candidate for governor in Idaho in 2014. He also ran in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary, won by current Gov. Brad Little.