Former Idaho governor candidate is charged in 1984 cold-case murder of 12-year-old Colorado girlJonelle Matthews whose remains were discovered last year
A property manager who ran for election in 2018 as governor of Idaho has been arrested and charged with murder 35 years after a 12-year-old girl's disappearance shocked the nation.
Steve Pankey, 69, was arrested on Monday at his home inMeridian, a suburb of Boise, Idaho.
His arrest was announced on Tuesday byMichael Rourke,Weld district attorney, who said that Pankey had been indicted by a grand jury on October 9.
The grand jury was looking into the kidnapping and murder of Jonelle Matthews, who was taken from the family home in Greeley, Colorado, in December 1984.
Pankey is being held without bail, awaiting extradition to Colorado, and is facing charges of felony murder, kidnapping and two violent crime sentence enhancements.
Pankey's 2018 campaign website states his staunch support for President Donald Trump and details how he studied criminal justice, and became convinced that 'globalists' were manipulating people's minds through the media.
'Steve's criminal justice studies included the study of people who acted without a conscience. Could the news media be a study in people who act without a conscience?' the websitestates.
He is described on the site as 'the principled choice for Idaho governor'.
His arrest was celebrated by Matthews' sister, Jennifer Mogensen, who was in high school when her sister vanished.
'I'm learning new things and I have to process that,' said Mogensen.
'But mostly I'm super grateful that this first step toward justice was taken. It will be a long journey but we're just really excited and grateful that this is happening.'
Their parents, Jim and Gloria Matthews, are retired and living in Costa Rica.
'For over three decades, the disappearance of Jonelle Matthews has left our community with many unanswered questions and a void that has not been filled,' said Mark Jones, chief of Greeley police department.
格里利警察局局长马克·琼斯(Mark Jones)说，三十多年来，乔内尔·马修斯(Jonelle Matthews)的失踪给我们的社区留下了许多悬而未决的问题和一个尚未填补的空白。
'With the arrest of Steve Pankey, some of these questions are starting to be answered.'
Pankey was born in Ventura, California, before moving to Colorado - living in a house two miles from the Matthews residence.
Pankey was a youth minister at Sunny View Church of the Nazarene, attended by the Matthews family, and had watched children from the Jonelle's middle school walk home, according to charging documents.
The little girl was last been seen entering the family home after being dropped off from a holiday choir concert that evening around 8pm.
When her father returned from her Jennifer's basketball game an hour later, Jonelle was gone.
A search ensured, which caught the attention of President Ronald Reagan.
Missing children became such a concern during the early 1980s that President Ronald Reagan addressed it during a speech to the National Newspapers Association.
儿童失踪在20世纪80年代初变得如此令人担忧，以至于罗纳德·里根(Ronald Reagan)总统在向全国报纸协会(National Newspapers Association)发表演讲时发表了讲话。
Reagan specifically referenced Jonelle during his March 7, 1985 address asking newspaper editors to regularly publish photos and articles about missing children so police could better solicit leads on their whereabouts.
'I learned about Jonelle Matthews of Greeley, Colorado, who would have celebrated a happy 13th birthday with her family just last month,' Reagan said.
'But five days before Christmas, Jonelle disappeared from her home.
'Letters like these touch us deeply, and we've tried our best to help.
'So, today I'd like to ask for your help.'
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was founded and opened six months before Jonelle's disappearance, and the National Child Safety Council used her image as one of its early campaigns, with her face appearing on milk cartons, to publicize the search.
In September 2019 investigators served a warrant on Pankey, telling him he was a 'person of interest', and prosecutors had 'probable cause' to believe he had kidnapped and killed Jonelle, he told the Idaho Statesman.
He told the newspaper that he was home with his then-wife the night Jonelle went missing, their car packed for an early-morning trip the next day to visit family in California.
They took the trip and returned home six days later in 1984, Pankey said.
He said he heard the news of a missing child on the radio.
The ex-wife told prosecutors the trip was unexpected.
On the way home, Pankey 'uncharacteristically listened to the radio, searching for news accounts of Jonelle's disappearance,' according to the indictment.
The community in Greeley, 50 miles north of Denver, continued to search, eventually abandoning their efforts.
The family continued to hope that she would show up, untilworkers digging a pipeline in July 2019 discovered human remains matching her dental records in a rural area southeast of Greeley.
Police then labeled her death a homicide.
On Tuesday Rourke, the Weld district attorney, in Idaho, said Jonelle died from a single gunshot wound to her forehead.
Pankey left Greeley in 1987, bound for Idaho.
In 2008, according to prosecutors, his former wife heard him say at his son's funeral: 'I hope God didn't allow this to happen because of Jonelle Matthews.'
In his interview last year with the local newspaper, which he said he did to clear his name, Pankey insisted he was innocent.
'I didn't know she existed or disappeared until Wednesday, December 26 (1984),' Pankey said.
Pankey argued that Greeley police had a vendetta against him.
Pankey said that in 1977, four years after moving to Greeley in 1973, he was accused of the 'date rape' of a 23-year-old woman he was seeing. Pankey at the time was 26.
The sex was consensual and prosecutors dropped the charges, he says, butauthorities in Greeley never forgot him because of the allegations.
'Once you're accused of something like date rape, you're forever stigmatized,' he told the Statesman.
Greeley police, according to Pankey, slapped him with about 20'arbitrary' misdemeanors, including battery and harassment by phone.
He said he was taken to court several times, and claimed victory in every case.
He admitted, however, that he had refused to speak to Greeley police, without an attorney present.