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Jonelle Matthews Murder: Idaho Politician Steve Pankey Is Person Of Interest

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) -- Greeley police investigating the 1984 disappearance of 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews say they searched the Idaho home of Steve Pankey. Investigators called the former Idaho gubernatorial candidate a person of interest.

Pankey ran for governor of Idaho in 2014, as a Constitution Party candidate, according to the Idaho Statesman. He also ran in the 2018 Republican primary, the paper reported.

Pankey and his former wife lived about two miles away from Matthews' home in Greeley when she was reported missing, according to the Statesman. He said he has not returned to Colorado since leaving in 1987.

Jonelle Matthews
Jonelle Matthews (credit: CBS)

Greeley police said Pankey made repeated efforts to speak with detectives throughout this investigation, but when detectives went to Twin Falls, Idaho, on Aug. 15 to speak with Pankey, he refused to speak with them.

Pankey said he voluntarily gave a DNA sample at the Twin Falls Sheriff's Office just a few weeks after Jonelle's remains were found this summer.

"I was hoping to be ahead of the curve," Pankey told the CBS station in Twin Falls.

Steve Pankey2
(credit: Steve Pankey/Facebook)

A spokesperson for the Greeley Police Department said, "At no point in time was a request made by law enforcement to obtain Steve Pankey's DNA."

The Greeley Police Department said detectives were able to obtain a warrant and searched Pankey's residence on Sept. 4, with the Twin Falls Sheriff's Office and the Twin Falls Police Department.

"They took a bunch of family pictures," Pankey said.

According to the warrant, officers were able to seize computers and electronic devices, "any and all computer programs or software used in the operation of the computer," as well as diaries, letters, email and other documents.

Pankey said he was shocked by the search, adding he went to the media to explain he had nothing to hide. He said he even offered to take a polygraph test, but authorities declined.

"Don't have police spitting on me, sticking their finger in my face saying, 'You did it,'" Pankey said.

Construction crews found Matthews' remains in rural Weld County in July.

GREELEY BONES jonelle matthews
(credit: CBS)

After singing in a holiday concert at her middle school on Dec. 20, 1984, Jonelle was taken 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.

Their father arrived home from Jennifer's basketball game about an hour after Jonelle but found an empty house, The Greeley Tribune reported. Their mother had left earlier that day to visit family in another state, according to Jonelle's older sister, Jennifer Mogensen.

Despite an intense search that started that night, no one was ever arrested.

(credit: CBS)

Last month, Morgenson said she hopes the killer is still alive and can be tracked down using advanced DNA technology.

"This is meant to happen," she said. "And if there's any DNA ... it's showtime."

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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