DENVER – A former longshot Idaho gubernatorial candidate was indicted Tuesday in the murder of Jonelle Matthews, a 12-year-old Colorado girl whose disappearance after a holiday concert in 1984 was a mystery for decades.
Her former neighbor Steve D. Pankey was charged with murder, kidnapping and other counts. He was arrested Monday at his Idaho home and being held without bail as he awaited extradition to Colorado, officials said.
Jonelle died from a single gunshot wound to her forehead, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said. Her remains went undiscovered until 2019.
Jonelle's family searched fruitlessly for years as her picture was printed on milk cartons during a national missing-children campaign in the 1980s. “Always in the back of your mind you might have a little bit of of hope,” said Jennifer Mogensen, her sister. “We're extremely grateful we're getting this next step toward justice.”
Mogensen was a few years older, and she doesn't remember Pankey.
In the decades since he lived in Colorado, he has run as a Constitution Party candidate for Idaho governor in 2014 and in the Republican primary in 2018. It's the same year authorities said he became a person of interest in the girl's death.
He did not immediately return phone or email messages Tuesday from The Associated Press. But last week told the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, that he was being framed in the case. He said his family had few connections to Jonelle or her family.
The two families did worship at the same church in Greeley, Colorado, and Pankey had made statements to police revealing “intimate knowledge about the commission of the crime" that was not public information, Rourke said.