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Judge sets $5 million cash bond for man accused of killing girl in 1984

Steven Pankey was indicted in October in the killing of 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews 36 years ago this month.

GREELEY, Colo. — The man who has been indicted on numerous charges, including first-degree murder, for the 1984 disappearance and death of Jonelle Matthews appeared in court Friday morning, where prosecutors asked for a $10 million cash-only bond.

A grand jury returned an indictment against Steven Pankey in October of this year. He is facing first-degree murder charges, a second-degree kidnapping with a weapon charge, as well as two sentence-enhancing crimes of violence counts.

RELATED: Jonelle Matthews killed by bullet to the head, coroner says

On Friday, prosecutors asked the judge for the cash only bond and asked that if he is able to make that bond, that he should be required to stay in Colorado and wear a GPS monitoring device. They also asked that he surrender his passport and asked that he not be allowed to contact any witnesses.

During the roughly 40-minute hearing, the judge ultimately set a $5 million cash-only bond. The judge also ordered that he have no contact with any witnesses, cannot leave Colorado without the court's consent and is not allowed to possess any weapons. He also ordered him to wear a GPS monitoring device as a bond condition. He's next due in court on Dec. 30 at 2 p.m.

The remains of 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews were found in summer 2019. On July 24 of that year, a crew excavating at an oil and gas well in Weld County discovered her remains. Greeley Police said they recovered the girl's skull and some of the clothes she was wearing the night she disappeared. 

She disappeared from her parents’ Greeley home on Dec. 20, 1984 following a Christmas concert.

According to the indictment, Pankey knew of and discussed a crucial piece of evidence from the Matthews' family home – the evidence was withheld from the public by law enforcement – specifically that a rake was used to “obliterate shoe impressions in the snow.”

The indictment says Pankey took Mathews from her home between 8:30-9:30 p.m. on Dec. 20, 1984. At some point during the kidnapping, the indictment says Pankey shot Mathews “intentionally and after deliberation.”

RELATED: Former Idaho gubernatorial candidate indicted in 1984 Greeley murder

During Friday's hearing prosecutors also read part of an "alibi letter" that was sent to the prosecutor's office in 2013. Despite being sent in 2013, that letter contained very specific details about the day Jonelle was last seen and the immediate days following. Prosecutors also said they found it curious that someone would send such a letter unless they felt they needed an alibi.

The defense attorneys admitted that while Pankey may have exhibited some odd behavior, there was no evidence he committed this crime. Instead, they argued that over the years, Pankey had tried to implicate himself for a crime he didn't commit.

Credit: Weld County Sheriff's Office
Steven Pankey

Defense attorneys said they would surrender his passport and said it was "appropriate" for the court to ask that he not leave the country.

However, they said that he has a home in Idaho and would prefer he be allowed to leave Colorado if he makes bond. 

They called the $10 million bond suggestion "just ridiculous" and asked for a "reasonable" bond, which they said was $50,000.

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