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Jonelle Matthews Murder Suspect Steve Pankey Pleads Not Guilty

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) — An Idaho man charged in a nearly four-decades-old case that gripped Colorado pleaded not guilty in the murder of Jonelle Matthews. Steve Pankey pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and murder in a Greeley courtroom on Wednesday.

Jonelle Matthews
Jonelle Matthews (credit: CBS)

It was Dec. 20, 1984 when 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews sang in a concert and was dropped at home by a friend and the friend's father. She was last seen at 8 p.m., entering the ranch-style home where she lived with her father, Jim; mother, Gloria; and sister. But when her father returned from her sister's basketball game an hour later, Jonelle was gone.

Pankey lived nearby and attended her church. Prosecutors have claimed Pankey inserted himself into the case over a period of years.

Steve Pankey JONELLE MATTHEWS 12SOT.transfer_frame_89
(credit: CBS)

The search for Jonelle was relentless. Rewards failed to turn up clues. Jonelle was considered missing until workers digging a pipeline in July 2019 discovered human remains matching her dental records in a rural area southeast of Greeley, a city about 50 miles north of Denver. Police then labeled her death a homicide. The investigation zeroed in on Pankey.

(credit: CBS)

The judge set the trial for July 15. The defense indicated they will ask for a chance of venue to move the trial out of Greeley. Pankey remains in custody on a $5 million bond.

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