After decades of searching, justice is being served for Jonelle and the Matthews family.
Jonelle Matthews, at the age of 12, disappeared from her home nearly 36 years ago. It was a story on the headlines across the country and her photo was among the first placed on milk cartons in an effort to find this missing child.
The community, and the country, rallied around the Matthews family in hopes of finding Jonelle alive. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Since that time, thousands of hours have been spent investigating, researching, and interviewing in the hopes of finding out what happened and bringing any culprits to justice.
And on October 9, 2020, the Weld County grand jury issued their indictment of Steven Pankey for the kidnapping and murder of Jonelle Matthews. According to the indictment, posted by the Greeley Police Department, Pankey faces multiple charges and is awaiting trial without bond.
"Steven Dana Pankey, 69, is facing first-degree murder charges, a second-degree kidnapping with a weapon charge, as well as two-sentence enhancing crimes of violence counts."
Pankey became a person of interest in the case. Pankey attended the same church as the Matthews family for a time. "Pankey watched school children walk home from Franklin Middle School where Jonelle Matthews went to school," according to the indictment. Pankey also mentioned details of the case intentionally kept from public knowledge by the police department. Pankey knew of a rake that was used to “obliterate shoe impressions in the snow.”
"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. In 2015 detectives began a renewed investigation into Jonelle’s disappearance. In the process, additional officers, retired and newly minted, offered vital assistance."
Weld District Attorney Michael Rourke held a news conference Tuesday and said Pankey was arrested on October 12, 2020, at his home in Meridian, Idaho, without incident. Rourke also stated there was no DNA link between Pankey and the remains of Jonelle. While Rourke opened the conference up for questions, he understandably was only able to answer a few. The media wanted to know details of what new evidence has surfaced.
Rourke also shared that Jennifer Mogensen, Jonelle’s sister, was present for the indictment of Pankey on Friday. Rourke said the Matthews’ family had a reaction “of genuine relief and excitement.”
Details and the Timeline
December 20, 1984: Jonelle attended a school choir concert, and a family friend took her home. There was evidence of her making a sandwich, but Jonelle was not seen after that.
1985: President Ronald Reagan mentioned Jonelle by name in a speech, and her photo was placed on milk cartons in a nation-wide endeavor to find missing children.
2014: Pankey ran for governor of Idaho.
2015: Greeley Police Department renewed investigative efforts in search of evidence.
2018: Pankey ran for governor of Idaho.
December 2018: Greeley Police Department announced it was taking a fresh look at the old case of Jonelle Matthew's disappearance with a new team of investigators.
July 23, 2019: Construction workers found the remains of Jonelle Mathews in a Weld County field. She was dressed in the same clothes she was wearing the night of her disappearance. An autopsy was performed, and the cause of death was determined as a single gunshot to the forehead.
September 2019: Pankey mentioned in an interview he had submitted a DNA sample and that his home had been searched.
October 2020: Weld County grand jury issued an indictment to arrest Pankey, and Pankey was arrested while in Idaho. Pankey is awaiting extradition to Colorado and his impending trial.