Who is the prime suspect in Jonelle Matthews’ death and where is he right now?
The tragic kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews are the main themes of the latest 48-hour broadcast on CBS. According to a brief synopsis of the program on CBS News:
“A former gubernatorial candidate is accused of kidnapping a 12-year-old girl. Reporter Richard Schlesinger of 48 Hours asks, “Does his decades-long passion show if he’s a junkie or a killer?”
Almost 35 years after Jonelle Matthews’ bones were found, Steven Pankey was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering the 12-year-old girl. To learn more about Steven Pankey, read on.
Who is Steven Pankey from the 48 Hour segment on CBS?
Back in 1984, when Jonelle Matthews disappeared a few days before Christmas, Steven Pankey was living near Jonelle Matthews’ house. In the years following Jonelle’s disappearance, Pankey and his family moved to a number of other locations before settling in Idaho, according to CBS News. Before entering politics, Pankey reportedly worked as a car salesman and security guard before moving to Idaho.
Pankey has fought the law on numerous occasions over the years. He was once arrested for “harassment and harassment” at a bank. Pankey contributed to the investigation into the disappearance of the 12-year-old in the Jonelle Matthews case by providing police information.
According to CBS News, Pankey claimed the lack of police response to his letters caused him to lose interest in the case. But things took a horrific turn when Jonelle’s bones were found in July 2019. According to an interview with KMTV, police reportedly searched Pankey’s home a month later and took away his laptop, cellphones and “a series of pictures.”
A Weld County grand jury issued an indictment against Steven Pankey, who was arrested in October 2020 on suspicion of kidnapping and first-degree murder. He pleads not guilty to the charges. Pankey’s attorney at the time, Anthony J. Viorst, argued that while Pankey was high profile, he was not a murderer. He explained to 48 hours:
Mr. Pankey enjoys being in the spotlight. It just behaves like a path for some reason
According to the indictment, his knowledge of a rake used to remove snow tracks from Jonelle Matthews’ property was arguably the most damning piece of evidence. His lawyer replied that the authorities had informed him of the accountability.
A major turning point in the trial occurred when Pankey’s ex-wife took the stand and informed the jury that he had forced her to listen to the radio news about the disappearance of Jonelle Matthews and that she had found a piece of paper in the garbage can mentioned that the snow had been raked in front of Jonelle’s house. During the trial, Pankey admitted that he had feigned knowledge of the case. He stated (as reported by CBS News):
I just wanted to be a big man and get on the case, you know? I didn’t know anything.”
He was found to have lied about knowing about the case. However, the court declared a mistrial because the jury could not reach a verdict on the charges of murder and kidnapping. His next trial is scheduled to begin October 4, 2022, and he is reportedly being held in the Weld County Jail.