Idaho man charged with killing Colorado girl, 12, in 1984

An Idaho guy who two times introduced long-shot bids for governor has been arrested and charged with kidnapping and killing 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews, who disappeared in 1984 and whose stays have been present in a rural a part of Colorado remaining yr, government mentioned Tuesday.

Steven Pankey, 69, was once arrested in Idaho on Monday after he was once indicted through a Weld County, Colorado, grand jury on a first-degree homicide price and different counts, the Weld County district legal professional mentioned.

Jonelle disappeared from her house in Greeley, Colorado, on Dec. 20, 1984, after acting in a Christmas live performance. Her stays have been present in July 2019 in a rural house of Weld County now dotted with oil and gasoline wells as crews have been operating on a pipeline.

This week’s arrest was once “36 years within the making,” Greeley Police Leader Mark Jones mentioned.

“For over 3 a long time, the disappearance of Jonelle Matthews has left our group with many unanswered questions and a void that has now not been stuffed,” Jones mentioned at a information convention Tuesday.

“With the arrest of Steve Pankey for the homicide of Jonelle Matthews, a few of these questions are beginning to be responded,” he mentioned.

Jonelle died from a gunshot wound to her brow, and Pankey is accused of capturing her all the way through the process the abduction, consistent with Weld County District Lawyer Michael Rourke and the indictment.

Rourke known as the invention of the stays vital, however he mentioned that Pankey have been an individual of hobby since 2018.

The case went to a grand jury in August, Rourke mentioned. The jury returned the indictment Friday and a warrant was once issued for Pankey’s arrest, he mentioned.

Pankey it seems that knew he was once an individual of interestate remaining yr. He informed the Idaho Statesman newspaper in September 2019 that he was once underneath investigation within the killing of Matthews and a seek warrant have been finished.

He informed the newspaper then that he didn’t know Jonelle or her circle of relatives and or anything else in regards to the woman till six days after she was once remaining noticed. “I’ve not anything to cover,” he informed the Statesman.

Pankey informed the Dual Falls, Idaho, Occasions-Information newspaper remaining week he was once being framed.

Pankey attended the similar church because the Matthews in 1978, and he can have recognized them via that, Rourke mentioned.

Pankey, who two times ran for governor of Idaho previously in what have been described as long-shot bids, was once being held on the Ada County, Idaho, prison with out a bail, Rourke mentioned.

The disappearance of Jonelle was once discussed through then-President Ronald Reagan in 1985 when he aske the Nationwide Newspaper Affiliation to frequently post data of lacking youngsters as a “undertaking of mercy,” consistent with information from the presidential library and museum.

Jonelle’s data was once one of the most first featured at the Nationwide Kid Protection Council’s nationwide milk carton program, during which images of lacking youngsters and different data was once imprinted on the cartons, Rourke mentioned.

Circle of relatives images of Jonelle Matthews, who went lacking simply sooner than Christmas 1984 and whose stays have been present in Greeley, Colo. in 2019, on a desk in a house in Greeley on Aug. 12, 2019.David Zalubowski / AP record

Pankey will probably be extradited from Idaho to Colorado to stand fees, the district legal professional mentioned. Pankey was once arrested Monday at his house in Meridian, Idaho.

Pankey’s legal professional, Anthony J. Viorst, informed NBC associate KUSA of Denver that “the truth that they waited 36 years to indict him displays the reality they do not have any proof, there is by no means been any proof.”

“I look forward to he’s going to be exonerated of all fees,” Viorst mentioned.

Pankey claimed to the Idaho-Statesman remaining yr that at the night time Jonelle disappeared he was once house along with his spouse on the time with their automotive loaded up for a talk over with to California to talk over with circle of relatives for Christmas, they usually deliberate to go away tomorrow.

Amongst different proof regarded as through the grand jury in returning an indictment in opposition to Pankey was once that his now ex-wife mentioned that go back and forth began on Dec. 22, 1984, two days after Jonelle went lacking, and that the go back and forth was once surprising, consistent with the indictment.

The ex-wife mentioned that at the long ago Pankey uncharacteristically listened to the radio, on the lookout for information of the woman’s disappearance, and once they were given again to Greeley on Dec. 26 he pressured her to learn newspaper articles in regards to the case.

Once you have again house Pankey “started digging of their backyard” and a automotive that was once on their assets stuck hearth and was once disposed of at a salvage backyard, the indictment says. They lived round two miles clear of the Matthews house on the time.

The ex-wife mentioned that during 2008 she heard Pankey say on the funeral of his son, who have been murdered, “I am hoping God did not permit this to occur as a result of Jonelle Matthews,” consistent with the indictment.

Pankey has been charged with one depend of homicide within the first diploma — after deliberation; one depend of homicide within the first diploma — legal homicide; second-degree kidnapping; and two counts of crime of violence, which can be described as sentencing improvements.

The Related Press contributed.

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