The trial begins with the murder of a girl shown in a milk carton in 1984..


Denver – The murder of a 12-year-old Colorado girl by a former Idaho Governor’s former long-shot candidate, who was tried in 1984, is a law until his obsession with crime and constant visits with police provide clues. He was not considered a suspect in the enforcement agency. That turned him into a suspect, the prosecutor said Wednesday at the beginning of the man’s trial.

Repeated long shot candidate Steve D. Punky was arrested last year for the death of Johnner Matthews. The girl’s body was discovered after her face appeared in a milk carton as one of the first children to disappear in an effort defended by former President Ronald Reagan. She was shot deadly.

Punky was a neighbor of a girl’s family in Greeley, Colorado. Colorado is a city of about 108,000 people living about 50 miles (80 km) north of Denver.

In his opening statement, Weld County lawyer Michael Roark said in his opening statement that Punky’s long-standing voluntary statements to law enforcement and journalists, keen interest in the case, and strange behavior before and after the murder that his ex-wife said. Said to prove his sin.


“It’s as if the defendants approached law enforcement on a regular and frequent basis and tapped their shoulders to say: Come and catch me,” Roke said.

Punky’s lawyer, Anthony Violst, said the prosecutor’s circumstantial evidence, Punky’s overwhelming personality, and his obsession with the mystery of “true crime” are not enough to convict him of kidnapping and murder. I argued. Viorst said it would introduce testimony suggesting that police should focus on the potential of alternative suspects.

“Steve Punky is a busy person … he’s in the middle of things,” Viorst said. “And he is particularly interested and particularly involved in these true criminal situations.”

Johnner was considered missing for more than 30 years until a worker who dug a pipeline in July 2019 found a human body in a rural area southeast of Greeley that matched her dental records. Police then classified her death as a murder.


Johnel died from a gunshot wound on his forehead, Roke said.

Rourke shared Pankey’s ongoing and unjustified visits to the Matthews case and details of his statement to law enforcement agencies.

Violst said Punky’s obsession was due to Asperger’s syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome leads his mind to process information differently and to be “in the midst of these” to prove his own “self-importance.”

Viorst gave some examples of other crimes in which Pankey had evidence or inserted himself by claiming to law enforcement agencies that he was directly involved.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Punky frequently contacted law enforcement agencies to share information about the case, which he said he learned from an idyllic confession that was not explained in detail, but in return for the exemption from prosecution. He said he would only do so.

Roke said Punky’s wife said he wasn’t a minister. Punky also commented on Greeley Tribune’s online article on the incident, writing:


According to prosecutors, Mr. Punky moved his family to several states before settling in Idaho, running for the Constitutional Party of the Governor of Idaho in 2014, and for the Republican Primary in 2018. Mr. Punky has been up to date with the incident for years. Officials said he became interested in the girl’s death.

Law enforcement seizures of Punky’s electronics led to the discovery of thousands of searches for information about the case long before he was considered a person of interest, Roke said.

“Searching for information about the Johnel Matthews case turns out to be the norm in the man’s life,” Roke said.

Johnel disappeared on December 20, 1984, after being taken home by a friend and his father. She was last seen at 8 pm and entered a ranch-style house where she lived with her father, mother and sister. But an hour later, when his father returned from his sister’s basketball game, Johnel was gone.


Defendant lawyer Viorst asked the jury to use common sense in connecting the timeline of the event with the lack of motivation that Punky would have had because he didn’t know Matthews’ family. rice field. Viorst also emphasized that Pankey expressed that he had no sexual interest in young girls.

Punky contacted an Idaho politician to tell his side of the story after he became an interested person. He told the newspaper that he was at home with his wife at the time the night Johnnell went missing. Their car was packed for a trip to a family in California early the next morning. They went on a trip and returned home in 1984, six days later, Punky said, and he heard news about the missing child on the radio.

The prosecution found that his ex-wife had an unexpected trip, and on his way home, Punky searched a radio channel for a news account about Johnnel’s disappearance and stopped by a local grocery store to post an article about the girl the day before. He said he remembered getting the newspaper.



Nieberg is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in the local newsroom to report on unreported issues.


This story was first published on October 13, 2021. Updated October 14, 2021 to clarify that Steve Pankey personally contacted Idaho Legislature to be interviewed about the case.

Copyright 2021 AP communication. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

The trial begins with the murder of a girl shown in a milk carton in 1984.

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