GREELEY, Colo. — The defense for Steve Pankey, the man accused of murdering 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews in Greeley in 1984, rested its case Friday afternoon which means the case will likely go to the jury early next week.
Their last witness was Pankey himself who spent Thursday afternoon and most of Friday on the witness stand.
Pankey, whose lawyers call him a "true crime junkie," is a former candidate for governor of Idaho. While DNA evidence hasn't linked him to the crime, prosecutors argue that his obsessed interest in the case and own statements point to him as the killer.
Pankey said he had nothing to do with the murder and that his prior statements, including requests for immunity, were mostly lies. During cross-examination Friday, prosecutors grilled him about his shifting story.
The aggressive cross-examination lasted about two hours, with Pankey answering most questions with a simple yes or no. The most dramatic moment came at the very end, when District Attorney Michael Rourke asked Pankey for details about the murder itself.
"When you shot Jonelle Matthews in the forehead, was she begging for her life?" asked Rourke.
"Never happened," Pankey responded.
"Did you look in her eyes?" Rourke pressed.
"Never happened," Pankey replied.
Pankey testified earlier that he didn't know who the Matthews family was on the night of Jonelle's disappearance on Dec. 20, 1984.
"Did you ever lay a hand on Jonelle Matthews?" Pankey's attorney asked at one point.
"No," he responded.
Pankey said the morning after Jonelle's disappearance, he and his wife at the time, Angela Hicks, drove to Big Bear Lake, California to see family.
Last week, Hicks testified that on their drive back to Greeley from that trip, they heard on the radio that Jonelle was missing, and Pankey wanted to hear more. She said they stopped at a Safeway for newspapers before getting back to their home.
Pankey denied that Thursday, among other pieces of testimony from Hicks and the prosecution. He also denied digging in the front yard of his home on the day of their return.
Prosecutors argued that over the years, Pankey became obsessed with the case, and approached police and wrote letters to the Weld County DA's office several times about it, and at times insinuated that he had information about the case.
"So for instance, on July 15 of 2013, you said that if you want Miss Matthews' body, you need to protect the witnesses' fourth, fifth and sixth amendment rights. Why did you write that, Mr. Pankey?" his defense attorney asked.
"I don't know. I don't have a good reason," Pankey responded.
When questioned on statements he made to police asking for immunity, Pankey said in part, "Because at that point, I wanted to privately say what I publicly said today that, you know, I really don't know anything, and I was bitter and I was just making stuff up."
The trial will continue Monday at 9 a.m. with rebuttal witnesses from the prosecution.
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