Former gubernatorial candidate who murdered 12-year-old girl watched children walk home from school

Former Idaho governor candidate was indicted for the kidnapping and murder of Jonelle Matthews, 12, which was followed by an unredacted autopsy report by the Weld County Coroner’s Office in Colorado.

The victim disappeared in December 1984 after attending a Christmas concert with a friend. Her parents and sister were not at home when she returned and they came home to Jonelle missing. Her shoes and leotards were left behind at home. Steve Pankey, the accused, lived two miles from the house at the time.

Her remains were found in 2019 by a construction crew at an oil construction site about 20 miles from where she went missing.

On Tuesday, Weld District Attorney, Michael Rourke, stated that a grand jury was going to indict Pankey. He was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and other related charges.

The indictment states that Pankey is accused of shooting Jonelle twice in the head and hiding her body. Reportedly, the bullet entered from the front of her skull and exited from the back of her head.

Investigators said that Pankey was familiar with the victim and the neighbourhood where she left, going so far as to note the police officers who lived on her street. He attended the same church as the victim’s family and watched children walk home from school.

In 1977, Pankey was also accused of date-rape by a young woman but claimed that the sex was consensual. The charges against him were later dropped.

Pankey stated that he was with his wife on the day of the disappearance and they left for a trip for a few days the following morning. His wife’s account differs from his as she states they went for a trip two days later.

The former wife also said that her husband was quite agitated and concerned over the whole affair and constantly combed the newspapers for news about the incident, which was unusual for him. Pankey claimed that he did not know of Jonelle and her family until a few days after her disappearance.

Greeley authorities stated that while Pankey was initially cooperative with the police in 2019, later he became uncooperative and refused to speak with detectives without giving a reason.

His lawyer, Anthony J. Viorst, expects him to be exonerated in full and charges against him to be dropped.