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Attorney for Steven Pankey withdraws from case as prosecutors press for retrial

Steven Pankey_mistrial on 3 counts, 1 on other
Posted at 2:29 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-09 13:15:33-05

DENVER — The attorney for Steven Pankey has withdrawn from the case as the court delays a possible decision on how the case will proceed following last week’s mistrial.

Pankey is accused of killing 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews in Weld County in December 1984. A 22-day long trial ended in a hung jury last week.

Defense attorney Anthony Viorst asked the court Monday if he could step down from representing the accused killer, citing a lack of time and energy to retry the case.

Viorst said his client had agreed to the separation and the judge approved. A team from the public defender’s office immediately stepped in during Monday’s hearing.

Before Viorst withdrew, he asked the court to significantly reduce Pankey’s bond, which is set a $5 million, cash only.

The judge denied the request after prosecutors objected on the grounds that Pankey, they contend, has a history of stalking and harassing witnesses.

While prosecutors expressed their desire to reset the case for trial, the judge delayed any possible discussion or decision into the matter for another hearing next week after Pankey’s new defense team requested more time and a possible review to change the venue.

The jury on Thursday failed to come to a unanimous decision on whether Pankey was guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder and kidnapping. They did, however, find him guilty of the lesser charge of false reporting, a class 3 misdemeanor.

The jury was handed the case around noon Tuesday after both sides presented their closing arguments in a Weld County courtroom.

Matthews was last seen alive on Dec. 20, 1984. Pankey was a neighbor of the 12-year-old and her family at the time.

She was deemed missing for more than 30 years until her body was found in 2019 at an oil and gas site in Greeley.

The Greeley Police Department confirmed in September 2019 Pankey was a person of interest. A Weld County grand jury indicted Pankey in October 2020 on three murder charges including first-degree murder. Two other charges of violence were also added to his case.

During the trial, witnesses testified that Pankey appeared obsessed with the case. Evidence presented included statements Pankey made in church, internet searches he made about Williams and statements he made to law enforcement.

Pankey testified during the trial that he pretended to know information about the case out of bitterness for police and for his former church and employer.

The hearing will continue Nov. 17.