After 36 years of thorough investigation, Colorado authorities were finally able to wreck a cold murder-case of a teen girl and named a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Idaho as the main suspect.
69-year-old Steven Pankey was charged with first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree felony murder, second-degree kidnapping, and crime of violence two years after he ran for Idaho Governor.
Prosecutors said that in 1984, Pankey lived with his wife in Greeley, Colorado, only 2 miles away from his alleged victim, Jonelle Matthews’ home.
His then-wife related how Pankey surprisingly suggested going on a trip on Dec. 22, the day following Matthews’ disappearance.
The same witness revealed that Pankey returned a couple of days later, and while on their way home, he “uncharacteristically listened to the radio, searching for news accounts of Jonelle’s disappearance,” and forced his wife to read newspapers’ posts about the incident.
Once at home, Pankey reportedly went to his backyard and started digging. A few days later, his car caught flames, without a clear cause.
Authorities discovered Jonelle’s remains in Greeley last year. An autopsy showed the 12-year-old girl was fatally shot in the head.
During the investigation, Pankey was omnipresent, according to detectives who grew suspicious of his continued interest in this particular case.
The suspect claimed to have known the victim and offered to lead officers to the remains if granted immunity. He even knew that a rake was used to hide the killer’s footprints at the scene, incriminating himself.
Soon before his arrest, Pankey deleted his internet search history. Also, investigators still do not possess strong evidence against him especially “definitive DNA link.”
“The fact that they waited 36 years to indict him reflects the fact they don’t have any evidence, there’s never been any evidence. I anticipate he will be exonerated of all charged,” Pankey’s attorney said.