Breaking News
More () »

'We never expected to find out what happened to her:' Jonelle Matthews' family talks about court case

Steve Pankey is charged with killing Jonelle Matthews. The 12-year-old was missing for more than three decades.

COLORADO, USA — Jonelle Matthews' family has been waiting for more than three decades to get justice for their daughter. 

Jonelle was just 12-years-old when she went missing the night of Dec. 20, 1984. Thirty-six years later, her family is finally hopeful they’ll get justice.

RELATED: Man charged in 1984 murder of Jonelle Matthews pleads not guilty

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

This week, Jonelle’s family was in the same room as their daughter’s alleged killer for the first time.

"To tell you the truth, we never expected it to be at this point," said Jim Matthews, Jonelle's father. "We never expected to find out what happened to her. We were consoled to the fact that we would probably never know what happened to her."

Jim and Gloria Matthews sat in a Weld County courtroom Wednesday as Steve Pankey pleaded not guilty. He’s charged with kidnapping and killing Jonelle.

At a Christmas choir concert, Jonelle went missing after a neighbor dropped her off at the family’s Greeley home. For decades the case was cold. In July 2019, a crew excavating at an oil and gas well in Weld County discovered her remains. In October of 2020, Steve Pankey was arrested in Idaho.

"When I saw him today, I saw a person that was defeated. He’s 70 years old, but he looked like he was about 90," said Jim Matthews, speaking of Steve Pankey. "To find the body and then to have a suspect and have an arrest and everything, to us this is just a miracle. An absolute miracle."

For 36 years, the Matthews family has mourned Jonelle’s disappearance without knowing what happened to her.

Jonelle was on their mind Wednesday in court just as she is every day.

"When we went to the gravesite, it was quite emotional. We went to the gravesite after the arraignment. We had some flowers that we put down," said Gloria Matthews. "We know that we want God’s justice to prevail."

Justice for Jonelle may be closer than it’s ever been.

RELATED: 2 women in custody after Denver robbery

RELATED: Youth girls hockey league director arrested for sexual assault, delinquency of a minor

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Investigations from 9Wants to Know 

Before You Leave, Check This Out