Accused killer of Jonelle Matthews extradited from Idaho to Colorado


The man accused of kidnapping and killing Greeley 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews in 1984 was extradited to Colorado this week and is now in the Weld County jail awaiting his first court appearance in the case.

Steven Dana Pankey, 69, was listed as an inmate of the Weld County jail Thursday. Arrest records indicate he was taken into custody there Wednesday evening. 

Pankey will make his first appearance in Weld County District Court on Friday morning. He has been in police custody since Oct. 12, when he was arrested in Meridian, Idaho, on suspicion of kidnapping and murder in the Matthews case following a grand jury investigation. 

Matthews disappeared on Dec. 20, 1984, after being dropped off at her family’s Greeley home following a holiday choir concert performance. She was never seen alive again.

Her gifts stayed wrapped under the Christmas tree as the Greeley community and investigators tirelessly searched for Matthews. Soon, she became one of the first missing “milk carton” kids of the 1980s.

Previous coverage:For 34 years, Colorado asked ‘Where is Jonelle Matthews?’ Now, it’s ‘Who killed her?’

But days turned into decades, and nearly 35 years would pass before Matthews’ friends and family learned her fate when Matthews’ skeletal remains were discovered last summer. 

In July 2019, crews digging at an oil site in unincorporated Weld County unearthed the remains, which were later confirmed to belong to Matthews. She was found in the same clothing she wore to the choir concert and had been shot in the head, according to the grand jury’s indictment of Pankey.

Pankey, a former Idaho gubernatorial candidate, was living in Idaho at the time of his arrest and was in custody at the Ada County jail until his extradition this week. 

Who is Steve Pankey?:Here’s what we know

Erin Udell reports on news, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at The only way she can keep doing what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. If not, sign up for a digital subscription to the Coloradoan today.