Ex-Candidate for Idaho Governor Charged in Connection to 1984 Cold Case Murder of Local Girl, 12

"We hope this development helps in some small measure. For far too long you have struggled with this anguish," local police said to the family of Jonelle Matthews, who disappeared in 1984

Jonelle Matthews
Jonelle Matthews. Photo: Greeley Police Department

A 69-year-old man who twice ran for governor of Idaho has been charged in connection to the slaying of a 12-year-old Colorado girl in 1984.

On Tuesday, the Weld County district attorney's office announced that Steven Pankey had been indicted by a grand jury for the killing of Jonelle Matthews in the decades-old cold case. Pankey is accused of kidnapping the child from her home in Greeley, Colorado, back in December 1984, and is believed to have shot and killed her.

He has been charged with murder in the first degree - after deliberation; murder in the first degree - felony murder; second degree kidnapping; and two counts of crime of violence, according to a press release.

Pankey was arrested on Monday morning in Meridian, Idaho, and he is currently being held without bail at the Ada County Jail in Idaho. A Colorado court date has not yet been scheduled, the district attorney's office said.

It was not immediately clear if Pankey has an attorney to reach for comment.

Steven Pankey
Steven Pankey. Ada County Sheriff's Office

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Back in September 2019, authorities served a search warrant at the Twin Falls, Idaho, home of Pankey, who ran for governor in 2014 on the Constitution Party line and ran again in 2018 in an attempt to gain the Republican nomination.

Matthews' body wasn’t found until July 2019, by a construction crew unearthing ground as part of a pipeline installation. Her death was ruled a homicide.

In a press release on Tuesday, the Greeley Police Department said the disappearance of Matthews had "haunted our community" for more than 30 years, and that "Jonelle became a daughter to us all" as the community rallied to find answers in the cold case.

"During those decades, generations of Greeley police officers have never forgotten Jonelle, many living in torment over the possibilities of what may have occurred that grim evening in 1984, and what could be done to solve this mystery," the police department said. "In 2015 detectives began a renewed investigation into Jonelle’s disappearance. In the process, additional officers, retired and newly minted, offered vital assistance."

"Lastly, to the Matthews family, we offer our sincerest condolences," the local authorities added. "We hope this development helps in some small measure. For far too long you have struggled with this anguish."

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