Former Idaho Governor Candidate Found Guilty for 1984 Kidnapping and Felony Murder of Colorado Girl

Mugshot of Steven Pankey
Facebook/Weld County District Attorney’s Office

Jonelle Matthews disappeared on Dec. 20 1984 after returning home from a choir concert.

A Colorado cold case is now closed after a jury found a failed Idaho 2018 governor candidate guilty of the felony murder of Jonelle Matthews.

A Colorado jury has convicted Steven Pankey, 71, of kidnapping and of the felony murder of Jonelle Matthews in December of 1984, according to a Facebook post from the Weld County District Attorney’s Office. 

Pankey was convicted of felony murder, second-degree kidnapping, and false reporting to authorities, according to Denver 7 News. He was then sentenced to life in prison with possible parole in 20 years, the local news outlet reported. 

“Reaching a guilty verdict today marks the end of our earthly justice for Jonelle, but it’s only the beginning of your journey,” said Matthews’ sister, Jennifer Morgensen, according to Denver 7 News.

Jonelle Matthews disappeared on Dec. 20, 1984, after she returned home from a choir concert and was never seen again, the Coloradoan reported. Her remains were found in 2014 after oil and gas workers in a rural field in Weld county dug them out. She was found in the same clothing she went missing in and had sustained a gunshot wound to her head, according to the news outlet. 

According to the Coloradoan, Pankey closely followed the police investigation into Jonelle's disappearance and would make incriminating statements over the years. He was indicted a year after they found her remains, the news outlet reported.

"This is not about the defendant, this is about Jonelle," said Weld County District Attorney, Michael Rourke, according to the Coloradoan. "This is an effort of 38 years of incredible policework by the Greeley Police Department and an incredible amount of work by the attorneys in my office."

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