GREELEY — Jurors began deliberations Tuesday in the trial of a former longshot Idaho gubernatorial candidate charged with murder in the death of a 12-year-old Colorado girl who disappeared in 1984.
Steve Pankey was a neighbor of Jonelle Matthews and her family when she vanished after being dropped off at her empty home by a family friend after performing at a Christmas concert in Greeley.
But he only emerged as person of interest in the case three decades later — shortly before Jonelle’s body was found in 2019 — after claiming to have information about what happened to her, allegedly knowing details that had not been released and asking for immunity from prosecution.
Pankey is a paranoid true crime junkie who took an interest in the case, as well as other slayings, and testified to lying to investigators about having information about it, his lawyer, Anthony Viorst, told jurors during closing arguments.
Despite being dishonest and behaving like a “jerk” to his ex-wife, Angela Hicks, and others, Viorst said Pankey did not kill Jonelle Matthews.
“Jerk? Guilty as charged. Murderer? Not guilty,” said Viorst, who said Pankey was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.
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