Man Charged With Homicide in 1984 Killing of Jonelle Matthews

DENVER — For greater than three many years, the disappearance of Jonelle Matthews hung over town of Greeley, Colo., the place the 12-year-old was taken from her household’s dwelling days earlier than Christmas in 1984.

“Throughout these many years, generations of Greeley cops have by no means forgotten Jonelle, many residing in torment over the probabilities of what could have occurred that grim night in 1984, and what may very well be finished to unravel this thriller,” town’s Police Division stated in a statement on Tuesday.

There was a significant growth within the case on July 23, 2019, when Jonelle’s stays have been present in a area southeast of Greeley, the police stated. The reason for dying was a gunshot wound to the pinnacle.

And this week, the authorities introduced that Steven D. Pankey, 69, a former Greeley resident who now lives in Idaho, had been indicted on Friday on fees of first-degree homicide and kidnapping in Jonelle’s dying. He was arrested on Monday in Idaho.

On Dec. 20, 1984, based on a grand jury indictment, Mr. Pankey, armed with a gun, took Jonelle from her household’s dwelling and killed her throughout the course of the kidnapping.

“This touched our entire neighborhood,” Mayor John Gates stated of the impression of Jonelle’s disappearance on Greeley, a metropolis of almost 110,000 about 50 miles north of Denver. He added that the Police Division deserved credit score for pursuing the investigation by means of the years. “They by no means put this case on the shelf,” he stated.

Mr. Gates was engaged on town’s police drive on the time of Jonelle’s disappearance. He recalled that there was proof on the scene that confirmed that she might need been kidnapped.

“Sadly, that got here to fruition,” he stated in a cellphone interview on Tuesday.

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He stated he hoped that Mr. Pankey’s arrest would deliver consolation to town and to Jonelle’s household.

When Jonelle’s physique was discovered final 12 months, “figuring out she was murdered did give us some closure,” stated Jennifer Mogensen, 52, Jonelle’s older sister, who now lives in Washington State. Mr. Pankey’s arrest is “once more one other present to our household,” she stated.

“We dwell this another time each time there’s a brand new step towards justice,” Ms. Mogensen stated, including that her father was “particularly excited to see justice” for Jonelle.

Mr. Pankey had lengthy been an individual of curiosity in Jonelle’s disappearance, the police stated on Tuesday. He “deliberately inserted himself within the investigation many instances through the years claiming to have information of the crime which grew inconsistent and incriminating over time,” the indictment stated, including that he had repeatedly requested for immunity in alternate for data.

Among the many particulars he gave legislation enforcement personnel was {that a} rake had been used to cowl up tracks within the snow the night she was taken, based on the indictment. Mr. Pankey had watched kids stroll dwelling from the center college that Jonelle attended, it said.

Jonelle’s disappearance gained nationwide consideration on the time. President Ronald Reagan talked about her case in remarks to reporters in 1985, imploring them to amplify tales of lacking kids.

An article in The New York Instances the identical 12 months in regards to the Nationwide Middle for Lacking and Exploited Kids quoted somebody calling in to the middle: “My buddy and I think seeing Jonelle.”

“Maybe one other useless finish,” the story stated. “Maybe not.”

Mr. Pankey, who made a long-shot bid for the Republican nomination for governor of Idaho in 2018, acted erratically within the days following the lady’s disappearance, Angela Hicks, his spouse on the time, advised investigators, asking her to learn him newspaper accounts in regards to the case.

Throughout a church service a number of months after her disappearance, when a minister stated that Jonelle can be discovered secure, Mr. Pankey muttered, “False prophet,” his spouse advised investigators.

It was not clear on Tuesday if Mr. Pankey, who was being held in Idaho with out bail earlier than being returned to Colorado, had a lawyer. He advised The Times News in Twin Falls, Idaho, final week that he was being framed by the police due to his sexuality as a “celibate gay.” He studied legal justice in Greeley, his 2018 marketing campaign website stated.

Mr. Pankey additionally advised the paper that on the day of Jonelle’s disappearance, he and his household had been making ready to take a trip to Huge Bear Lake, Calif., although paperwork he supplied to investigators to assist that account “contained false statements and superfluous particulars,” based on the indictment.

Mayor Gates stated that the indictment had proved that “chilly instances can really be solved.”

“Whereas it’s not on the forefront of all people’s thoughts,” he stated, “most individuals that have been in Greeley right here in ’84, they’ve all the time questioned, ‘What occurred to this little lady?’”

Ms. Mogensen stated that the killing had taken away a possibility for her and her sister to develop nearer, as they have been each youngsters with a “sibling rivalry” on the time.

“It got here to an abrupt finish,” she stated of their relationship, “after we each most likely might have developed one thing totally different.”

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