biographical facts

Steve Pankey biography: 13 things about Jonelle Matthews case suspect

Steve Pankey (©Weld District Attorney’s Office)

Steve Pankey (©Weld District Attorney’s Office)

Steve Dana Pankey is a white man accused of killing Jonelle Matthews, a native of Greeley, Colorado, United States born in 1972. He was arrested almost four decades after her death.

Matthews attended Franklin Middle School in Greeley. Pankey allegedly watched school children walk home from the school.

After a school choir concert in the evening of December 20, 1984, family friend Russ Ross dropped off Matthews at her home at 320 43rd Avenue in Greeley. Her father reported her missing days later.

Over the years, Pankey intentionally and repeatedly inserted himself in the investigation of Matthews’ disappearance, according to prosecutors. He repeatedly demanded immunity in exchange for the information he claimed to have about the case.

Over the years, Panley made inconsistent, suspicious and incriminating statements about the case. However, there is no definitive DNA link between him and the victim.

Pankey and his former wife Angela Hicks had one son. Here are 13 more things about Pankey:


  1. He was born in 1951.
  2. He attended the Sunny View Church of the Nazarene in Greeley until June 1978. Matthews and her family joined the same church in the same month.
  3. He allegedly took Matthews from her home in Greeley on December 20, 1984 between 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and shot her in the head during the course of the kidnapping. On December 22, 1984, he took his family to a Christmas trip to California, USA, which Hicks, his then wife, described as unexpected. According to her, he dumped their family dogs before the trip and they were never seen again. She also said while on their way back from California to Greeley, he kept listening to the radio to get updates on Matthews’ disappearance. When they arrived home on December 26, 1984, he immediately started digging in their yard. On December 28, 1984, a car on their property burst into flames. Hicks said he disposed of the burnt car at a local salvage yard.
  4. During a church service he and his family attended in 1985, the minister announced Matthews would be found safe. He called the minister a false prophet, according to Hicks, and parishioners had to remove him because he became increasingly agitated. In March 1985, he said in an interview that two police officers live in the same block as Matthews.
  5. In 1989, he moved from Greeley to Ketchum, Idaho then to Shoshone, Idaho.
  6. In 1999, he filed a pleading with the Idaho Supreme Court in Boise, Idaho. He argued that “it is reasonable for the appellant to believe he would get the death penalty” for revealing the location of Matthews’ body” if the court ruled in a certain fashion and the case “will never be solved” without a deal.
  7. In April 2003, he filed a pleading in which he stated that Matthews’ family should be informed that she “died before crossing 10th st. (sic) and not to give the family hope.”
  8. In 2008, his son was murdered in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. In his funeral, Hicks heard him say, “I hope God didn’t allow this to happen because of Jonelle Matthews.”
  9. In 2013, he included false statements and superfluous details in a document he to law enforcement, in which he detailed plans for a family trip to California in the morning of December 20, 1984. In August 2013, he sent an unsolicited letter to court saying that he “realized a blanket, or comforter, or quilt also disappeared” from Matthews’ house “about a week after the fact.” He also wrote, “Some experiences are hard to forget. But I must realize justice isn’t always served and move on.”
  10. In 2014, he ran unsuccessfully for governor in Idaho as a Constitution Party candidate.
  11. In 2018, he ran again for governor in Idaho but as a Republican and was unsuccessful again. In the same year, he became a person of interest in the case of Matthews.
  12. On July 23, 2019, oil field workers found Matthews’ skull and some of the clothing she was wearing on December 20, 1984 at an oil site in Weld County, Colorado. On September 4, 2019, Greeley Police and the Twin Falls Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant at his home in Meridian, Idaho. He tried to delete all evidence of the internet searches about Matthews that he had repeatedly made.
  13. On October 5, 2020, he was arrested without incident at his home in Meridian, Greeley Tribune reported. He was charged with first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree felony murder, second-degree kidnapping and two counts of crime of violence. Jonelle’s sister Jenn Mogensen was present when he was indicted on October 9, 2020.  He is being held without bond at the Ada County Jail in Idaho where he will await extradition to Weld County. He appeared in court on October 13, 2020.

(This is a developing story. More details will be added as soon as they are available.)

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