Former candidate for governor suspected of murdering Jonelle Matthews admits he lied to investigators

When Steven Panke took the stand at his murder trial, he prepared the jury for surprising testimony about his 1984 disappearance. Jonelle Mathews,

“This is the hard part because I raised my hand and I vowed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” Panke said in a packed courtroom in Weld County, Colorado, on October 28, 2021.

Panke, 70, often went off topic as he attempted to explain why he implicated himself in a high-profile kidnapping and murder, which he says he did not do.

“I started a series of lies and it got bigger and bigger over the years,” Panke said, “one lie leads to another.”

This was a bizarre twist in the tragic case of Jonelle Matthews, who was kidnapped from her home in Greeley, Colorado, on December 20, 1984. Special Report on the Cold Case Murder Trial of “48 Hours” Correspondent Richard Schlesinger, “Who Killed Jonelle Matthews?” Airs Saturday, August 6 at 9/9c on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Jonelle was 12 when she went missing after attending a Christmas choir concert. A family friend left Jonelle at home alone, and she was never seen alive again.

Police initially tracked down Jonelle’s father, Jim Matthews, who was the first to discover his daughter was missing. After clearing Jim Matthews, police struggled to find a suspect.

Panky lived two miles from Matthew’s home in December 1984 and had once attended the same church as Matthews, but was not considered a suspect until he involved himself in investigations over several decades.

“I told the FBI I wanted to talk to you,” Panke recalled on the stand. “It may or may not have something to do with Jonelle Matthews.”

Panke, a former security guard, used car salesman and himself as a “true-crime junkie” was not charged in the case for 35 years.

“He’s a true-crime junkie. He finds himself in the middle of murder cases, but that doesn’t mean he was actually involved in them,” Punky’s then-defense attorney, Anthony Wiest, told the jury.

Through the years, Panke frequently spoke to the local media, investigators, and anyone else who heard about his theories on Matthews.

“I said I thought he should see her in church. I thought she should see her trusted adults,” Panke testified.

In the time following Johnell’s disappearance, Panke moved to Idaho where he twice ran for governor and three times for county sheriff. His campaign for the top law enforcement position included the tagline “Panke Bozo is the antidote to sheriff investigation.”

Panky wanted a jury to believe that he had been the victim of a misguided criminal investigation in Colorado.

although he once described himself as a person of interest In the case, Panke testified that his involvement was all fabricated – by him trying to get back the Greeley police and others in the community who he felt had wronged him.

“I have spoken to the police about me in the past,” Panke said.

The day before Mathews went missing in 1984, Panky was arrested for creating a scene at a bank and released hours later. This is just one example in an unusually long run-down line with police that Panke believes he targeted at Greeley. The police and court records of what ultimately happened with these incidents are no longer available.

“I didn’t trust the Weld County Sheriff. I didn’t trust the Greeley police,” Panke testified.

In the Mathews case, Panke made unsolicited statements over the course of 30 years to the Greeley Police Department, the Weld County District Attorney’s Office, and the FBI.

“It was just me trying to be a grown man, [and] Be in the case, right? I had no idea,” Panke testified.

It’s a strange way to get attention, Viorst admits. But he says it is a part of Panky’s eccentric nature.

“Mr. Panke loves the limelight. He just does, for whatever reason,” Voorst told “48 Hours” correspondent Richard Schlesinger in an exclusive interview while he was preparing for the trial.

Panke also included information about Jonelle Matthews in her 2003 divorce case, writing that Jonelle’s family should be told that she “died before crossing 10th Street.”

Panke’s defense attorney told Schlesinger that this was another example of his client pretending to have knowledge of the case.

“Just, you know, pulled out of thin air,” Viorst said. “It’s not true. It’s not based on anything.”

Panke says that by 2014, many of his letters to the DA’s office were returned to the sender, unopened, and Panke lost interest in the case.

“I just stopped talking about the Jonelle Matthews case,” Panke said.

but after the authorities Jonelle’s body discovered In July 2019, he began to take Panke’s statements more seriously and visited them at his home in Idaho, where he had relocated.

During that interview, Panke testified that he told detectives that his information on the Matthews case “could be real or fictitious.”

Panke was arrested on October 12, 2020 for the kidnapping and murder of Jonelle.

In the indictment, officials cited Pankey’s numerous statements over the years as evidence of his involvement in the case. He attaches particular importance to Panky’s comments about the evidence found outside Mathew’s house.

The indictment states, “Panke was aware of and discussed an important piece of evidence from the Matthews House withheld from the public by law enforcement, in particular, a rake to erase shoe impressions in the snow.” was used.”

But Panke says there is another explanation.

“I got information from him. The longer you talk to a policeman, some information is going to come out.” Pankaj testified.

When Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke cross-examined Panky, he was incredulous.

“You have 37 years to think about what you’re going to say if you ever had to sit on that stand, and yesterday you came up with, ‘I made it?'” Rourke asked.

“Yes,” answered Panky.

Voorst says that Panky’s statements are certainly strange, but he has no real place in the investigation.

“Nothing he’s ever said really implicated him in the murder,” Viorst told Schlesinger.

Despite his cryptic comments about the matter, Panky has always said that he never got in touch with Jonal Mathews.

“I wasn’t at the Matthews house. I didn’t know who they were,” Panke testified.

After two days of testifying, Panke appeared weary on the stand, making his case.

“And it’s true, right? And I’m totally humiliated. I wanted to handle it way less,” Panke said.

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