Twelve-year-old Jonelle Matthews went missing on December 20, 1984. Her remains went undiscovered for more than 35 years. Last July, decades after the case had gone cold, pipeline construction workers uncovered her body outside Greeley, Colorado. The cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head.
Now, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke has indicted two-time Idaho gubernatorial candidate, Steven D. Pankey, for Jonelle’s abduction and murder. Pankey, 69, was a youth pastor at the church the Matthews attended in Greeley.
Fox News’ Stephanie Pagones has more:
In the decades since Pankey 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.
Pankey previously 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, and Pankey had made statements to police revealing “intimate knowledge about the commission of the crime” that was not public information, Rourke said.
Pankey had watched children from Jonelle’s middle school walk home, according to charging documents. In 2008, his former wife heard him say at his son’s funeral: “I hope God didn’t allow this to happen because of Jonelle Matthews,” prosecutors wrote.
Jonelle’s disappearance even came to the attention of then-President Ronald Reagan, whose administration launched a nationwide effort bringing awareness to missing children. Milk cartons across the country contained Jonelle’s picture at one point. All the while, her family continued their desperate search.
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