Steve Pankey lived two miles away from Jonelle Matthews when she disappeared after returning home from performing in a school Christmas concert.
Update 10/14/2020 7:57 AM
Steve Pankey has been charged in the cold case murder of Jonelle Matthews.
Weld District Attorney Michael Rourke announced on Tuesday that the former Idaho Governor candidate had been arrested the day before, having been indicted by a grand jury on October 9.
The 69-year-old is being held without bail while he awaits extradition to Colorado, where he will face charges of felony murder and kidnapping.
The body of the then-12 year-old victim, killed in 1984, was only discovered last year.
Greeley Police Chief Mark Jones said the arrest was "36 years in the making."
"For over three decades, the disappearance of Jonelle Matthews has left our community with many unanswered questions and a void that has not been filled," he said at a news conference.
"With the arrest of Steve Pankey for the murder of Jonelle Matthews, some of these questions are starting to be answered."
original story 09/14/2019 12:43 PM
A cold case may have been given new life after it was revealed a former candidate for Idaho governor is under investigation for the killing of a 12-year-old girl in Greeley, Colorado 35 years ago.
68-year-old Steve Pankey said authorities searched his house last week as they believe he is a "person of interest" in the kidnapping and murder of Jonelle Matthews during an interview with Idaho Statesman.
Pankey and his former wife lived two miles away from Matthews when she disappeared on December 20, 1984 after returning home from performing in a school Christmas concert.
According to Pankey, SWAT teams seized his "electronic devices and financial documents" during the search. Pankey claims the search was conducted about a month after he gave a DNA sample to the police. However, Greeley Police said they never made a request to obtain Pankey's DNA.
Although Matthews was reported missing over three decades ago, it wasn't until this July that a construction crew in Weld County, Colorado discovered her remains in an oil fiend. Authorities then officially labeled her death a homicide.
Pankey claimed he was home with his then-wife on the night Matthews vanished. He said he left the next morning to visit family in California and returned to Colorado on Dec. 26, 1984 where he first heard the news of a missing child on the radio.
"I never met Jonelle, I never met her family, I didn't know she existed or disappeared until Wednesday, Dec. 26, ," he stated.
He did, however, report something suspicious to the FBI shortly afterwards -- that his father-in-law, who worked at a cemetery, had told him about someone asking about how to get rid of a body.
At the time, Pankey was a youth minister at Sunny View Church of the Nazarene, also in Greeley.
Pankey had a theory about why police were focusing their inquiries on him: in a startling revelation, he told Idaho Statesman that he had several "brushes with the law" before Matthews went missing.