Ex-Candidate for Idaho Governor Is Person of Interest in 1984 Cold Case Killing of Girl, 12

Chris Harris

A 68-year-old man who twice ran for governor of Idaho is a person of interest in the slaying of a 12-year-old Colorado girl in 1984, PEOPLE confirms.

On September 4, authorities served a search warrant at the Twin Falls, Idaho, home of Steve Pankey, who ran for governor in 2014 on the Constitution Party line and ran again in 2018 in an attempt to gain the Republican nomination.

The warrant, obtained by the Idaho Statesman, indicates investigators are looking at Pankey as possibly being connected to the kidnapping and murder of Jonelle Matthews, who was 12 when she vanished from Greeley, Colorado, back in 1984.

Her body wasn’t found until this past July, by a construction crew unearthing ground as part of a pipeline installation.

The Denver Post reports that Pankey lived two miles from where the girl disappeared.

In an interview with the Idaho Statesman, Pankey denied having anything to do with the kidnapping and killing.

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He told the paper that the search of his home occurred about a month after he gave police a DNA sample.

Pankey described the search, saying an armed SWAT team showed up at his door to comb through his car and condo. Electronic devices and financial documents were seized.

Pankey, who said he has refused interviews with police since the recovery of Jonelle’s body, has not been charged with any crime. The Statesman cites a statement from the Greeley Police Department that calls him a “person of interest in the murder investigation of Jonelle Matthews.”

Pankey told the Statesman he was home with his wife preparing for a trip the night Jonelle went missing.

The next day, they left for his parents’ home, he said, adding that he learned of the missing girl only after returning.

Pankey told the paper he has offered to take a polygraph test.

“I’m trying to be transparent,” he said. “I have nothing to hide.”

Investigators in Colorado couldn’t be reached for comment.