Former Idaho gubernatorial candidate convicted of killing missing 12-year-old girl in 1984
11/01/2022 3:18 pm PDT
GREELEY, Colo. (TCD) -- A 71-year-old former Idaho political hopeful was convicted this week of killing a young girl whose remains were found decades later in a field.
The Weld County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday, Oct. 31, that Steven Pankey was found guilty of kidnapping and first-degree murder for the death of 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews. The Greeley Tribune reports a judge sentenced Pankey to life in prison with the possibility of parole. He was acquitted on a charge of first-degree murder — after deliberation.
Pankey was arrested in October 2020 in Idaho. According to the Weld County District Attorney’s Office, Pankey kidnapped Matthews from her home in December 1984, then shot and killed her.
Greeley Police said Matthews' disappearance "haunted" the city for over 30 years. Detectives reopened the case in 2015 and began investigating again.
On July 23, 2019, a crew working on excavating a pipeline in rural Weld County discovered apparent human remains. Weld County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at the scene and "determined the remains were human."
According to Greeley Police, evidence at the scene and the Weld County Coroner’s Office examination led to the remains being positively identified as belonging to Matthews.
Greeley Police said Pankey became a person of interest early on in the investigation. Then, as detectives gathered more evidence, he was named a suspect.
According to KMGH-TV, Pankey went to trial in 2021, but the jury reportedly could not reach a consensus on the charges. He was found guilty during that trial of false reporting.
Pankey ran for governor of Idaho in 2018, where he campaigned to "support President Trump’s Nationalist Policies" and to "Drain the Swamp in 2018 and beyond." He reportedly studied criminal justice in college and also ran for lieutenant governor.
- GUILTY: Jury convicts Steven Pankey - Weld County District Attorney's Office
- Jury finds Steve Pankey guilty, sentences him to life in prison for 1984 kidnapping, murder of Jonelle Matthew - Greeley Tribune
- Jury finds Steven Pankey guilty of felony murder, kidnapping in Jonelle Matthews cold case - KMGH
- Indictment of Steven Pankey- Jonelle Matthews Disappearance, 10/13/2020 - Greeley Police Department
- Idaho Man Arrested, Charged in Jonelle Matthews Cold Case, 10/13/2020 - Weld County District Attorney's Office
- Remains Found in Weld County Identified, 7/25/2019 - Greeley Police Department
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