DENVER – A former longshot Idaho gubernatorial offender has been sentenced Tuesday in the murder of Jonelle Matthews, a 12-year old Colorado woman whose disappearance following a festival concert at 1984 turned into a puzzle for decades.
Her former neighbor Steve D. Pankey was charged with murder, kidnapping and several points. He had been arrested Monday in his Idaho home and also being held without bond as he anticipated extradition to Colorado, officials explained.
Jonelle died from a single gunshot wound to her brow, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke explained. Her stays went undiscovered before 2019.
Jonelle’s family hunted fruitlessly for many years as her image had been published on milk cartons through a nationwide missing-children effort in the 1980s.”Always in the back of your mind you may have a small bit of hope,” explained Jennifer Mogensen, her sister. “We are extremely grateful we are getting this following step toward justice”
Mogensen has been a couple of years old, and that she does not recall Pankey.
In the years as he lived in Colorado, he’s become a Constitution Party candidate for Idaho governor in 2014 and at the Republican leader in 2018. It is the exact same year police said that he became a person of interest from the woman’s death.
He didn’t immediately return telephone or email messages Tuesday in The Associated Press. But last week advised the Times-News at Twin Falls, Idaho, he was styled at the situation. He said that his family had few links to Jonelle or her loved ones.
The two households did research in exactly the exact same church at Greeley, Colorado, also Pankey had made statements to authorities showing”intimate understanding about the commission of this offense” that wasn’t public info, Rourke explained.
Pankey had viewed kids from the Jonelle’s middle college walk house, according to charging papers. Back in 2008, his former spouse heard him state at his son’s funeral:”I trust God did not permit this to take place due to Jonelle Matthews,” prosecutors wrote.
Jonelle vanished Dec. 20, 1984, later being dumped home with a friend and the friend’s dad ) She had been last seen in 8 pm, entering the ranch-style house in which she lived with her dad, Jim; mom, Gloria; along with sister. But when her dad returned in her older sister’s baseball game an hour after, Jonelle had been gone.
The situation came to the attention of then-President Ronald Reagan because his government launched a nationwide effort to locate missing kids. Her image was published on milk cartons across the U.S. within a job by the National Child Safety Council.
“For more than three years, the disappearance of all Jonelle Matthews has abandoned our community that has many unanswered questions plus a void which hasn’t yet been filled. Using the arrest of Steve Pankey… a few of those questions have started to be answered,” said Greeley police division Chief Mark Jones.
Jonelle was believed missing for over 30 years before employees digging out a pipeline at July 2019 found human remains fitting her dental documents within a rural area northeast of Greeley, a town roughly 50 kilometers (80 kilometres) north of Denver. Police then branded her death a homicide.
Pankey was an individual of interest in the situation, and the past year that he approached the Idaho Statesman to tell his side of this story, fearing a potential arrest.
He informed the paper he was living together with his then-wife night Jonelle went lost, their car packaged with the early-morning trip another day to go to family in California. They shot the trip returned home six months after in 1984, Pankey stated, and that he also heard the news of a lost kid on the radio.
The ex-wife advised prosecutors the excursion was sudden. On the road home, Pankey”uncharacteristically listened to your radio, looking for news reports of Jonelle’s disappearance,” according to the indictment.
Mogensen told the AP at 2019 the woman was powerful and mutually independent. In 1 family photograph, Jonelle stood at the family’s house, having a hands on her hip. In the next, she stares right into the camera with her mouth set and eyes slightly narrowed. In many other people, her smile is broad and unguarded.
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Nieberg is a corps member for its Associated Press/Report to get America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit nationwide service program that puts journalists at local newsrooms to record undercovered problems.
Associated Press author Lindsay Whitehurst at Salt Lake City contributed to the story.