top of page

The Second Trial of Steven Pankey

Steven Pankey, the 71 year old Colorado man accused of the 1984 murder and kidnapping of Jonelle Matthews, is standing trial once again. His first trial ended in a deadlocked jury, but Weld County DA Michael Rourke wasn't satisfied with that answer, and on October 4, 2022 the 71 year old was brought before a panel of his peers for a second time.

The case is a purely circumstantial one, with no DNA, no fingerprints, no eyewitnesses; police relied solely on Steven Pankey's behavior after the 12 year old girl's disappearance. Pankey reached out to authorities and the Weld County DA's Office multiple times over the years, claiming to have information about Jonelle's disappearance. Pankey claimed he was given the intel by a trusted source, one he "knew" wasn't directly involved. He was looking to trade the information he had for details police knew about the crime. He also made strange comments to people over the years, seeming to infer he was involved in the case. Police weren't even able to establish a connection between Pankey and the Matthews' family, however, this was precisely why Pankey's interest in the case seemed suspicious from the beginning.

After Jonelle's body was found in summer of 2019 police rechecked several people they had initially looked into, and Steven Pankey's name came up once again. He was publicly named a suspect in late 2019, and was subsequently arrested, charged, and then the resulting mistrial.

As Pankey refaces a Weld County prosecutors are using many of the same tactics as the first trial, and some new ones. Many of the same witnesses have testified about that night Jonelle disappeared in December 1984, including a friend, Deanna Ross and her father, Russell Ross. Jonelle's father has testified, and her older sister Jennifer.

All have testified their versions of the story, however, there's a common theme among them; there was nothing amiss that night that caught anyone's attention, and Jonelle seemed herself. There was nothing out of the ordinary.

On Wednesday October 11, 2022 prosecutors called Keith Olson, former investigator for the Greeley Police Department and the Weld County District Attorney's Office, to the stand.

Olson testified about responding to the scene the day Jonelle disappeared and then working the case again as a cold case in 1989. Olson talked about how Pankey inserted himself into the investigation, making odd claims and fishing for information.

Former Greeley Police Captain, Jack Statler, was also called to testify this week. Day 4 of Pankey's trial concluded with the cross examination of Statler by defense attorney Peter Harris.

Statler also testified to receiving phone calls from Pankey wanting details about Jonelle's disappearance.

Day 5, October 13, 2022, the jury listened to the phone call that initiated police defining Pankey as a suspect.

The prosecution is still wrapping up their case, and then Steven Pankey gets the chance to defend himself one last time. As updates become available we will post them here.

Do you think Steven Pankey will testify again?

What do you think the jury will decide this time?

Is Steven Pankey guilty?

If not, why the interest in Jonelle's case?

Leave your comments and/or questions down below!

If there's a specific case you'd like to see us cover, or would like to get updates on, send us an email, or contact us today!

Jonelle Matthews Disappearance:

Jonelle Matthews disappeared from her Greeley, CO home on the evening of December 20, 1984. That evening she was performing with her middle school's choir in Denver, her father was attending her older sister's basketball game, and her mother was out of state attending to Jonelle's sick grandfather.

Jonelle was dropped off at home that night at 8:15 pm by a friend, Deanna Ross, and Deanna's father, Russell. She made it inside the house safely, and approximately 15 minutes after arriving home took a phone message for her father, Jim Matthews. This is the last time anyone was known to speak to Jonelle.

Her father arrived home about an hour after Jonelle, and noticed Jonelle's shoes and shawl sitting by a heater in the front room of the house where she liked to sit. He didn't see Jonelle, and she didn't answer when he called out to her. Mr. Matthews did not become immediately concerned. Jonelle's older sister Jennifer got to the family residence a little later, at 10 pm, but had not seen her sister either. This is when their father became very worried and called police. Police arrived to the residence at 10:15 pm, just two hours after Jonelle had been dropped off by her friend.

It wasn't immediately apparent that anything was wrong or that something had happened to Jonelle, but police did eventually find footprints in the snow and dirt outside the Matthew's residence, and on the concrete floor in the garage. The footprints seemed to all match despite efforts taken by the perpetrator to cover his tracks; the footprints in the snow had been raked over in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

After speaking with the family and friends of Jonelle it became clear to police she was missing and had not run away. There were no real leads, however, pointing to who could have taken Jonelle. Days went by, then weeks, then months and years. Without the technology we have today police were at a standstill without a tip or lead to follow. Jonelle Matthews was declared officially dead in 1994.

In 2019, about 15 miles from Jonelle Matthew's 1984 home, construction crews were breaking ground for a new pipeline. It didn't take long once they started digging for one of the men in the crew to notice something out of place. They stopped digging and realized they had alerted police to what they had found.

It was the body of a young girl, and it didn't take police long to associate the remains to Jonelle. It was confirmed several weeks later to be her.

After the discovery police zeroed in on Steven Pankey. They cited his obsession with the case over the years, and the comments he had made to people over time about the crime as the reason for their suspicions. Steven Pankey began contacting authorities soon after Jonelle's disappearance. He would write letters and make phone calls, claiming to have information and wanting to exchange what he knew for what police knew of the crime. Pankey told police he had been given the intel by a trusted friend, one he "knew" wasn't directly involved in the case.

Authorities never took Steven Pankey up on his offer, and instead, nothing was ever really done about Pankey's strange behavior.

The calls and letter would continue, to police and to the Weld County DA's office, and Pankey would also tell people intimate details of the crime. Details that only police knew.


Steven Pankey was brought to trial in October of 2021, on a purely circumstantial case. Because the technology we have now didn't exist in 1984, police didn't have DNA samples in this case, they admittedly didn't even have fingerprints. They couldn't even prove a link between the Matthews family and Pankey.

But that was kind of the point.

Why the interest in the girl's disappearance if he didn't even know her?

Why reach out to police and the DA several times over the years about the case, and make odd comments to people to infer he was involved if he really wasn't?

That was the question the jury was asked.

And despite the Weld County DA's best efforts the jury couldn't decide. The case ended in a deadlocked jury and was declared a mistrial.

Left: Jonelle Matthews, 12, December 1984 Right: Steven Pankey


bottom of page