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Jonelle Matthews case: Hung jury on murder, kidnapping charges

A Weld County jury found 70-year-old Steve Pankey guilty of false reporting Thursday, but the judge declared a mistrial on two counts of murder and one count of kidnapping in the 1984 death of Jonelle Matthews.

On Tuesday, the jury began deliberating the three charges against Pankey, the man accused of kidnapping and murdering the 12-year-old girl, as well as the additional charge of false reporting that was added after Pankey testified as a witness and admitted to lying to law enforcement in the past about the case.

During deliberations, the jury was not able to come to an agreement on the murder and kidnapping charges. Their deliberations ended at 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

Weld County District Judge Timothy Kerns declined for a modified-Allen instruction, a jury instruction put into place to encourage a jury that cannot decide to reach a unanimous verdict.

Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke pressed for this jury instruction, but Kerns declared further deliberation wouldn’t change anyone’s verdict.

Pankey was arrested in October 2020, just over a year after Jonelle’s remains were found buried at an oil and gas site in Weld County. Jonelle went missing from her home on Dec. 20, 1984, after being dropped off from an honor choir concert.

The missing child’s case gained nationwide media attention as the Greeley community and law enforcement searched for Jonelle until July 2019, when her body was discovered.

A hearing to address Pankey’s bond and sentencing is set for 1:15 p.m. Monday.

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