By Dillon Thomas

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – The trial in a decades-old murder ended in a mistrial Thursday after the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on three of the four charges. Steve Pankey was suspected in the murder of 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews in Greeley in 1984.

(credit: CBS)

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“We still have an active prosecution. We still have an active investigation. And, really, all I can say at this point is I want to thank the jury from the bottom of my heart for all their time and attention,” said District Attorney Michael Rourke.

Rourke told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas that his office, as well as the Matthews family, were disappointed by the outcome of the trial. The prosecution believed they had presented a case that proved beyond reasonable doubt that Pankey shot and killed Matthews in 1984.

On Dec. 20, 1984 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.

Jonelle Matthews (credit: CBS)

Jonelle was considered missing until workers digging a pipeline in July 2019 discovered human remains matching her dental records in a rural area in Weld County. Police then labeled her death a homicide. An autopsy report suggests she died of a gunshot wound to the head.

“They’re disappointed. They were hoping for some closure like we talked about during the course of this trial. But, I think they echo the statements I just made which is to thank the jury,” Rourke said.

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Pankey’s defense attorney, Anthony Viorst, said his client was also frustrated by the outcome of the trial. Pankey believed he should’ve been acquitted and released on all counts.

“We believe there is a lot of reasonable doubt in this, if not evidence of outright innocence,” Viorst said. “It was a very hotly contested trial. And, there was certainly quite a bit of evidence of Mr. Pankey’s innocence. So, I can see how the jury would not be able to reach a unanimous verdict.”

Because Pankey was ruled guilty of false reporting to authorities he could be sentenced to up to six months behind bars. However, Viorst said his client should be credited for time served during the trial.

“He has already served more than the maximum sentence permitted for that offense, so I would assume he would get credit,” Viorst said.

Viorst said he would stop short of calling the mistrial a victory. But, he said he also would not call the outcome a defeat.

Rourke said he would have further discussions with the Matthews Family to decide next steps. Both sides were asked to return to the Weld County Courthouse on Monday for a status hearing.

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The decision on whether or not to try Pankey once again will ultimately be made by the Weld County District Attorney’s Office.

Dillon Thomas