Two Blaine County residents have been called to provide witness accounts before a Colorado jury this fall in relation to a murder case involving longtime Blaine County resident Steven Dana Pankey, a former deputy coroner who twice ran for Idaho governor.
Pankey is charged with the 1984 kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Greeley, Colo. girl Jonelle Matthews. He is being represented by Michael Kraynick, a Hailey-based defense attorney.
In October 2020, a Weld County grand jury indicted Pankey on five felony counts, including first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.
From the mid-1990s to his arrest on Oct. 12, 2020, Pankey lived in Blaine County, according to court documents. He served as deputy coroner and apprentice mortician for the county until at least 2009, according to Idaho Supreme Court records. Pankey also made two unsuccessful runs for governor, in 2014 and 2018.
Kraynick filed an order in the 5th Judicial District last Wednesday asking two Hailey residents to appear before the Weld County District Court in Greeley as witnesses. One witness named was Russ Mikel, Blaine County’s current coroner, who previously worked with Pankey.
The four-week jury trial scheduled to start in Greeley on Oct. 6.
Jonelle Matthews’ remains were discovered by excavators working on a pipeline in July 2019.
According to CBS News report, she was reported missing from her home in December 1984 after singing in a choir concert. Pankey was living two miles from the Matthews home at the time Jonelle disappeared and attended their church.
An eight-page indictment by the state of Colorado details Pankey’s involvement in the 37-year-old cold case, claiming that he “inserted himself into the investigation” at multiple points over the years.
According to the indictment, Pankey allegedly told his ex-wife in 1999 that Sun Valley Police did not believe him when he told them that he had information related to Matthew’s disappearance, and that the department would not grant him immunity in exchange for evidence.
That was a trend, according to CBS.
“He allegedly volunteered, without being asked, what he claimed were details about when Jonelle died,” the report said. “He told police ‘not to give the family hope,’ and he drew up a list of persons of interest with his own name on it.”
The CBS report goes on to state that the “most damning evidence against Pankey may be that he allegedly knew that whoever kidnapped and killed Jonelle used a rake to cover up their shoeprints in the snow, a detail that was allegedly only known to investigators and the Matthews family.”