A 1984 cold case may have a stunning resolution. Former candidate for governor of Idaho, Steve Pankey, has been arrested in the 1984 killing of a 12 year old Colorado girl. Authorities say Pankey weirdly inserted himself into the investigation over the years, and his over-involvement and promises of knowledge to help uncover the truth led to his arrest.
The Disappearance of 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews
On December 20, 1984, hours after performing in a Christmas concert, Matthews went missing. For decades, her disappearance was a mystery. With no body and few clues to suggest what had happened to the child, Matthews was the subject of a mention by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 when discussing his intentions to establish an effective information exchange network on missing children. Matthews’ face was featured on milk cartons and remained a high-profile mystery until 2019.
Matthews’ Body Answers Some Questions
NBC News reports that in 2019, Matthews’ body was found in a rural part of Weld County, Colorado, after crews working on a pipeline found remains. Discovery of her body revealed that Matthews had been killed by a gunshot to the head.
NBC reports, “This week’s arrest was “36 years in the making,’ Greeley Police Chief Mark Jones said.
‘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,’ Jones said at a news conference Tuesday.
‘With the arrest of Steve Pankey for the murder of Jonelle Matthews, some of these questions are starting to be answered,’ he said.”
Pankey Was Involved In the Investigation
CNN reports that, over the years, Pankey weirdly inserted himself into the investigation and officially became a suspect in 2018. Per CNN, “According to the indictment, Pankey lived about two miles from Jonelle’s home at the time of her disappearance and about 10 miles north of where her body was found decades later.
The court document also said Pankey ‘watched school children walk home from’ the middle school the victim attended and said he owned a gun the year she disappeared.
The indictment also states Pankey was in contact with authorities following Jonelle’s disappearance, and ‘intentionally inserted himself in the investigation many times over the years claiming to have knowledge of the crime which grew inconsistent and incriminating over time.’
Pankey also searched for information on Jonelle’s death in newspapers as well as on the radio and internet, the indictment said.
In a September 2019 interview with the Idaho Statesman, Pankey, who ran in the Idaho Republican primary for governor the year before, said he was under investigation for the killing and that police searched his Twin Falls home. Pankey added he didn’t know Jonelle or her family.”
What’s Next For the Investigation?
Pankey was indicted by a Grand Jury on October 9th, and arrested Monday in his Meridian, Idaho, home. According to CNN, court documents indicate that charges for Pankey include two counts of first degree murder, second degree kidnapping and crime of violence charges related to Jonelle’s kidnapping and death.
Now, maybe, the family can have a little peace as they watch Pankey’s trial play out. Although it won’t heal their wounds, bringing Pankey to justice is a first step towards hope for the future. They’ve waited 36 years for answers, and they may be close.