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Trial for former Idaho candidate ends with hung jury

Crime Watch

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GREELEY, Colorado (AP) — The trial of a former longshot Idaho gubernatorial candidate charged in the killing of a 12-year-old Colorado girl ended Thursday with jurors unable to reach verdicts on the most serious charges against him.

Jurors found Steve Pankey guilty of false reporting but could not reach an agreement on murder and kidnapping charges.

Pankey testified that he pretended to know information about the case out of bitterness for police and because of his former church and former employer, both of which he wanted to be investigated. He denied being involved in Jonelle Matthews’ disappearance and death.

RELATED | Former Idaho gubernatorial candidate on trial for 1984 killing of girl shown on milk carton

Pankey was a neighbor of Jonelle and her family when she vanished after being dropped off at her empty home by a family friend after performing at a Christmas concert in Greeley, Colorado, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Denver. He emerged as person of interest in the case three decades later — shortly before Jonelle’s body was found in 2019 — after claiming to have information about what happened to her and asking for immunity from prosecution.

A hearing is scheduled Monday to sentence Pankey for the false reporting conviction and to discuss whether prosecutors will try again to put him on trial for murder and kidnapping.

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