GREELEY, Colo. — A former longshot Idaho gubernatorial candidate was convicted Monday of kidnapping and killing a 12-year-old Colorado woman who went lacking almost 40 years in the past.
Jurors discovered Steve Pankey, 71, responsible of felony homicide, second-degree kidnapping and false reporting within the disappearance and demise of Jonelle Matthews in 1984, the workplace of district legal professional Michael Rourke mentioned. A decide then sentenced him to life jail with the potential of parole, the Greeley Tribune reported.
It was Pankey’s second trial within the case. Final yr, jurors have been unable to succeed in verdicts on the kidnapping and homicide prices and prosecutors determined to place him on trial once more.
Pankey was a neighbor of Jonelle and her household when she vanished after being dropped off at her empty residence by a household buddy after acting at a Christmas live performance in Greeley, Colorado, a metropolis about 50 miles north of Denver. He emerged as an individual of curiosity within the case three many years later — shortly earlier than Jonelle’s physique was present in 2019 — after claiming to have details about what occurred to her and asking for immunity from prosecution.
Pankey’s legal professionals mentioned his conduct could have appeared uncommon however they argued police didn’t safe onerous proof in opposition to him and didn’t clear an alternate suspect who died in 2007, the Tribune reported.
Prosecutors mentioned Pankey stored updated on the case all through the years whilst he moved his household to a number of states earlier than settling in Idaho the place he ran unsuccessfully as a Structure Celebration candidate for Idaho governor in 2014 and within the Republican gubernatorial main in 2018, the yr that authorities mentioned he was named as an individual of curiosity within the woman’s demise.
Jonelle’s case got here to the eye of then-President Ronald Reagan as his administration launched a nationwide effort to search out lacking kids. Her image was printed on milk cartons throughout the USA as a part of a venture by the Nationwide Little one Security Council.
She was thought of lacking till staff digging a pipeline in a rural space close to Greeley in July 2019 found human stays matching her dental information.
Her demise was then dominated a murder. She died from a single gunshot wound to the top, prosecutors mentioned.