Greeley community remembers Jonelle Matthews as jury deliberates Steve Pankey murder trial

Local News

WELD COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — The fate of Steve Pankey’s freedom remained in the hands of a jury Wednesday.

The jury returned at 8:30 a.m. after five hours of jury deliberations on Monday.

Pankey is charged with first-degree murder in the disappearance and death of Jonelle Matthews nearly four decades ago.

Matthews disappeared from her home in Greeley on Dec. 20, 1984. Her remains were found in July 2019 at a construction site.

As the jury continued day two of deliberations, Greeley community members inside of Roasty’s Cafe anxiously awaited a verdict, remembering the young girl at the center of this tragedy.

“It struck so close to home, I mean really just around the corner. It was — it was sad,” Betty Lujan said.

The Lujan family lives just three blocks away from where the Matthews family lived back in 1984 — the location from where Jonelle disappeared.

Lujan said her boys went to school with the 12-year-old girl.

“My son, he’s almost 50 now, and he says he remembers way back then,” Lujan said. “Back when we found out, my son said, ‘I don’t think she ran away, mom. She was just a good girl, real nice.’”

Mary Macniell had just moved to Greeley a year before Matthews’ disappearance. She’s paying close attention to the jury’s every move with the young girl’s name back in the news.

“It’s strange, like you can’t believe that it actually happened and it’s finally getting solved,” Macniell said. “Hopefully whatever the jury decides, hopefully, they do it soon.”

“If he’s guilty, they need to find him guilty, you know. He can’t get away with this all these years,” Lujan said. 

After 37 years, hours of jury deliberations feel like decades to those who remember Matthews.

“Justice needs to be done for the family after all these years,” Lujan said. 

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