Former Republican Politician, Steven Pankey, has been charged with kidnapping and killing a 12-year-old girl from Colorado. According to law enforcement, it took them decades to solve the murder and recently connected the pieces of evidence to the former Idaho government Republican candidate.
Former Republican Politician Indicted
As reported by CrimeOnline, 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews disappeared on December 20, 1984, after attending a Christmas concert at Franklin Middle School in Greeley, Colorado.
Matthew's friend and the father of her friend dropped her off at home after the concert, and they said they watched her until she was inside her house.
Matthew's father and sister were at a basketball game when she arrived home, and her mother was out of town. When the family came home, Matthew was missing, and the shoes she wore at the concert were left behind.
At the time of Matthew's disappearance, Steve Pankey, who ran for governor in Idaho under the Constitution Party in 2014, then ran again under the Republican party in 2018, lived two miles away from Matthew's home.
In July 2019, 34 years after Matthews' disappearance, a construction crew found human remains at an oil construction site located 20 miles away from the girl's home. Officials later confirmed that the remains that were discovered belonged to Matthews.
On October 13, Weld District Attorney, Michael Rourke, announced that Pankey was arrested on October 9. According to NBC News, Pankey was arrested in Idaho and was charged with first-degree murder and related charges.
Who is Steve Pankey?
Steve Pankey was a former Republican gubernatorial candidate and a youth minister at Sunny View Church of the Nazarene in Greeley. In 1977, Pankey was accused of date-rape by a 23-year-old woman. He was prosecuted, but the charges were dropped because he claimed the sex was consensual.
Pankey claimed that he was at home with his former wife on the night that the girl disappeared. The couple attended an out-of-town function, and when he returned home on December 26, 1984, he learned about Matthew's case.
However, the timeline that Pankey stated is different from what his former wife told investigators. His ex-wife told the authorities that they took an unexpected trip on December 22, 1984, two days after Matthews disappeared.
The former wife also said that Pankey searched for news on the radio about updates on Matthews, which she found out of character. She also said that he forced her to read newspaper articles about the girl when they returned home.
On August 15, 2019, FBI agents found Pankey at his home in Twin Falls, Idaho, and questioned him. He claimed that authorities asked him to take a DNA test, and he complied.
According to the warrant, the authorities obtained a search warrant for his home, and investigators wrote that they had probable cause to think that Pankey kidnapped and murdered Matthews.
Detectives also visited Pankey's former home in Greeley and asked the current owner about the septic tank before digging up three areas in the home's front yard.
Greeley police stated that even though Pankey previously cooperated with law enforcement when they arrived at his home in Twin Falls, he became uncooperative. The authorities said that Pankey was not asked to give a DNA sample. He also refused to talk to detectives.
According to NBC 9News reports, Anthony J. Viorst, Pankey's attorney, expects all charges against his client to be dropped this week.