By Jennifer McRae

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) — The trial for an Idaho man charged in the murder of Jonelle Matthews, a nearly four-decades-old case that gripped Colorado, began on Wednesday. Steve Pankey has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and murder.

Jonelle Matthews (credit: CBS)

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It was Dec. 20, 1984 when 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews sang in a concert and was dropped at home by a friend and the friend’s father. She was last seen at 8 p.m., entering the ranch-style home where she lived with her father, Jim; mother, Gloria; and sister. But when her father returned from her sister’s basketball game an hour later, Jonelle was gone.

Pankey lived nearby and attended her church. Prosecutors have claimed Pankey inserted himself into the case over a period of years.

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(credit: CBS)

The search for Jonelle was relentless. Rewards failed to turn up clues. Jonelle was considered missing until workers digging a pipeline in July 2019 discovered human remains matching her dental records in a rural area southeast of Greeley, a city about 50 miles north of Denver. Police then labeled her death a homicide. The investigation zeroed in on Pankey.

(credit: CBS)

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Pankey remains in custody on a $5 million bond.

Jennifer McRae