GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4)- Charged with the murder of 13-year-old Jonelle Matthews in 1984, alleged murderer Steve Pankey took the stand in his own defense on Thursday. Pankey, a self-described compulsive liar, spent hours Thursday afternoon trying to convince the jury he was not involved in the young girl's disappearance.
Matthews, whose body was discovered in 2019 in a remote Weld County field, went missing on December 20th of 1984. She was last seen performing at a church Christmas choir and wasn't found until 2019.
Pankey was arrested in 2020 and charged with the murder after showing extreme interest in the case for many years and later mentioning details about the murder that had not been publically discussed. Pankey told some that the murderer cleared their tracks by using a rake in the snow, something he told the jury an officer told him.
Pankey spent most of his time on the stand rambling about his past and often times going off-topic in his answers.
Pankey opened his testimony by discussing his upbringing between California and Colorado in the 1960s and 1970s. At times Pankey was heard talking about how he was bullied for being bisexual when in school. He then transitioned into talking about his hatred for racist police officers.
At one point Pankey talked about his time working as a medical professional, and specifically about how one time he intentionally delayed giving medical help to a wounded officer in hope of taking one more officer off of the police force.
Pankey's lawyer worked to bring him back on topic many times, asking him to discuss his ties to the Greeley community.
Pankey said he moved to Greeley because his aunt and uncle lived in the area. He talked about how he wanted to study criminology at a local college but was allegedly denied because of his sexuality. He also claimed he was denied a job in the Greeley Police Department because he had homosexual tendencies.
Pankey admitted he used to attend the same church as Jonelle Matthews. He said he was asked to stop attending church functions by staff. However, he confessed to still making appearances at some church functions against the wishes of the staff.
Pankey denied his ex wife's testimony that he was fixated on the Matthews murder case in the days to follow her disappearance. His ex-wife told the jury he continuously wanted to watch the news, read the papers and listen to radio reports on the missing persons case.
He also denied testimony from witnesses that he set fire to the interior of his vehicle shortly after Matthews went missing.
Throughout his testimony Pankey tried to downplay testimony from others, ultimately trying to argue that the only reason he was considered a suspect is because of his own history of lying.
Pankey, a self-proclaimed poor example of a Christian, said his tendency of lying is now coming back to get him during this trial.
Pankey said the only reason he was constantly talking about the trial was because he wanted to try and get investigators to look into his former church and his former employer 7Up.
"I am a poor example of a Christian. Don't let who I am dissuade you from the fact that there is a real God," Pankey told the jury.
When his lawyer asked if he ever knew Matthews Pankey was quick to say, "No."
"The truth is I made a lot of stuff up out of bitterness for things that happened to me at Sunny View (church), and for things that happened to me at 7Up. My revenge on them was because I hated the police, to say, 'I've got information you want, and you cannot have it.' It was a polite way of flipping them the bird," Pankey said.
At times Pankey went on tangents about how he was more interested in men than his own ex-wife. He even apologized to the jury for giving graphic details about his sex life.
At one point Pankey said he assumed Jonelle went missing because she was a, "…Hispanic girl being put in her place."
Pankey's own attorney asked him why he was seeking to make a deal with prosecutors well before he was ever identified as a possible suspect. Pankey claimed just because he wanted a deal didn't mean he had done anything wrong. Pankey claimed he simply wanted to protect himself from any possible future prosecution.
Court was placed in recess before Pankey could be cross-examined by the District Attorney's office. Pankey will resume examination at 9 a.m. Friday.
Wearing a dark suit, coughing throughout his testimony, at one point Pankey took a moment from his testimony to wish his son happy birthday while on the record.
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