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Suspect named in Jonelle Matthews murder case

UPDATE 10/11/20 – Steve Pankey has been arrested and indicted on First Degree murder. Click here for the indictment. Pankey is accused of shooting Matthews in the head during the course of the kidnapping. Pankey was 33 at the time.

Original Post: On July 25, 2019, missing Jonelle Matthews, 12, was finally found. Jonelle went missing from her Greeley, Colorado on December 20, 1984. She was last seen around 8:30 p.m. by a friend and her friend’s father when she was dropped off at home. No one was home at the time. When her father came home, Jonelle was gone.

Click here to listen to the Crime Time Talk podcast about this case.

Thirty-five years later, her body was found by a work crew excavating near County Road 49 and County Road 34 1/2 in Weld County, Colorado.

Now the authorities are stating they have a person of interest in the case, and have named Steve Pankey, 68. Pankey ran for governor in 2014 and 2018.

Pankey spoke with the Idaho Stateman. He told them that he was home that night that Jonelle went missing with his wife packing for a trip. Pankey lived about 2 miles away from Jonelle Matthews at the time. He stated he offered to take a polygraph test and has given LEO his DNA on August 19. He also said the Twin Falls Police Department served him with a warrant and searched his home, reports NBC news. The Huffington Post states that was on September 4.

In a statement the Greeley Police Department said Pankey had tried to talk to detectives throughout the investigation, but he wouldn’t talk with them in August, when they came to see him. Also, The Greeley Police Department says they have never asked for DNA from Pankey. Other than that they are not saying much more.

Panky said he went to the FBI with a tip on Matthews case, although it wasn’t specific on when he did that.

“I never met Jonelle, I never met her family, I didn’t know she existed or disappeared until Dec. 26 (1984).” he told the Idaho Statesman. “I have nothing to hide,” he said.

According to the Huffington Post, Pankey said he’d had been charged with what he called a “date rape” in 1977 at the age of 26. He said the sex was consensual and the charge was later dismissed by prosecutors. He also said he’d been charged with several other misdemeanors over the years, that went to trial, ending in his winning the case.

More on this story as it comes in.

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