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Today's episode was made possible by a wilderness of error on its 50 years ago, Army surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald was charged with the murders of his pregnant wife and two young daughters. To this day, though, he maintains his innocence, claiming that a group of hippies imitating the Manson family committed the atrocities from the award winning producers of The Jinx comes a wilderness of error. A new documentary series that re-examines this infamous case to finally answer the questions. Did the media shape public opinion and helped convict an innocent man?
Or did Jeffrey MacDonald kill his family?
A wilderness of error concludes Friday, October 2nd on Fox, now streaming on Hulu High Crime Junkies. I'm your host, Ashleigh Flowers, and I'm great. And you guys, we are here Christmas and all because we know that you crime junkies need your fix. So instead of taking the week off, we decided to bring you an extra special Christmas episode because we all know evil does not take time off around the holidays and there is still a Christmas killer out there needing to be caught.
Five days before Christmas in 1984, Janelle Matthews insisted on going to school despite the fact that she had been pretty sick like the two days before and had to stay home. So she admits those days it was like begging her mom to let her go for a couple of reasons. One, she had handmade some Christmas gifts for friends that she really wanted to give to them. And to that night was a Christmas concert that she wanted so badly to perform in.
So Janelle's parents agreed to let her go to school and participate in the concert, but with one condition. After the concert, you go home and rest, which wasn't ideal because Janelle's sister, Jennifer, had a basketball game that night that she wanted to go to, but she'd have to cut her losses.
Two out of three ain't bad, right? So Janelle goes to school that day. She sees her friends, goes to class, does all of the wonderful things a seventh grader does. Then she goes home to get ready for her Christmas concert. Now, today, there was a little more hustle and bustle around the Matthews house than normal because along with the Christmas concert and Jennifer's basketball game that night, Janelle's mom, Gloria, was taking a late flight from Colorado where they lived to where her parents lived in California.
I guess her father had been really sick. So she was going to go spend some time with him. So that evening, everyone's like getting their stuff together. Janelle and her dad, Jim, say bye to mom and Jennifer actually wasn't home. I pretty sure she actually stayed after school for her game instead of coming home. So it's just an old dad. They say bye to mom. They get into the car, go grab a bite to eat before Jim drops Janelle back off at her middle school.
This is Franklin Middle School.
And basically there was a bus there that was taking all of the kids that were in this choir to a local bank for this Christmas concert. Now, Denver Post reported that she was doing a concert at a nursing home. But other reports that I can find, like from the Colorado Sun, the Greeley Tribune, all say that it was at a bank which I corroborated with a video released by police. So she was doing the concert at a bank that night.
OK, now, because her mom was out of town and her dad went to Jennifer's basketball game, no one from Janelle's family was actually able to attend the concert that night. So when Jim said goodbye to Janelle and pulled out of the school parking lot, he had no way of knowing that that would be the last time he would ever see his little girl again. According to a project done by the Colorado State University's advanced reporting class. When the concert was over, Janelle followed one of her friends named Diana Ross out to her car, where Deanna's dad was waiting to pick her up.
And so Janelle asked Deanna's dad, Russ, if he could give her a ride home, which he agreed to. Was it the plan all along for him to give her a ride? From what I can tell, it seems like Russ wasn't planning on giving her a ride. He just agreed to give her one when she, like, ran up to the car after a concert. So she didn't have any sort of plan on how to get home.
I mean, I guess not, which I guess it seems weird today, but this is kind of like a small town, Greeley, Colorado, in 1984, like I'll just catch a ride home with a friends was probably a very normal thing to do.
So Russ drives Janelle to her place, and as she's getting out of the car, he makes note of something, something that maybe didn't make him outright worry in that moment, but something that was strange enough that it stuck in his mind.
According to an article in The Denver Post written by Kirk Mitchell, the garage door of the family home was open. Now, just as he's making note of this, Janelle Flick's on the inside indicating that she made it in safe. And so Russ and Diana drive away. Now, Janelle was dropped off sometime between eight and eight thirty p.m. and we know she was definitely home by eight thirty because around this time someone calls the home phone and Janelle answers. Now, this calls from a teacher at a local elementary school.
And Janelle's dad was actually the principal at that school. So this teacher was calling to let Jim know that they were sick and wouldn't be into work tomorrow. So, Jim, we need to get coverage for their class now. Jim still isn't home from the basketball game at this point. So Janelle jots down like a little. Nope. Leaves it by, like, the Family Message Board, which is by the phone.
And some time either before or after the call, Janelle had, like, kicked off her shoes, gotten cozy in the living room. She they had the TV on. She turn on this little space heater, like put her slippers on, ready to really just settle in for the night and wait for her dad and sister to get home. But something would happen in the short hour between when Janelle took that phone message from a teacher and when her dad pulled up to the house at nine thirty.
When Jim pulls up to the house, he notices the same thing rusted Mike Peters of the Greeley Tribune reported that the garage door was still open. When Jim gets inside, he kind of calls out for Ginnell, says Hajnal.
But the house is just kind of extra quiet. He doesn't get any response and it's almost too quiet for his vivacious and spunky preteen to have been home. Like Janelle had a big personality and you knew if she was there. So when Jim peeks into the living room, he can tell that she was just there. Like she's got her whole little set up. The heaters turned on the pillows right there in front of the TV, like right as she would normally be posted up.
So Jim just kind of assumed that Janelle had maybe run across the street, maybe to a neighbor. She's going to be right back. So he decides to go grab some Christmas presents and wait for her. He'd see Janelle come in the door any minute now, but minutes went by and Janelle didn't come home. A half hour after Jim got home, Jennifer made it home from her basketball game. Oh, I. I guess I kind of assumed that she had gone home with her dad.
No, I couldn't find much detail on why, but I think that's because it's kind of unimportant, like when I played sports, like I would often stay after either you're in a shower or you're hanging out with your friends, like, you know what I mean? Like, it's totally different. So I don't think it's super weird. And she was 16. I didn't see anything about her having a car, but it's totally possible she could have driven herself.
So she gets home at like 10:00. And by this time, Jim is very worried. He asked Jennifer if Janelle was with her, like hoping maybe somehow she'd gotten to the game, even though her parents told her she couldn't go. But Jennifer hasn't seen her sister all night. And I can imagine that this is when panic starts to set in for Jim. And he didn't know what to do at first. Like nothing bad happened. Nothing could happen.
Right. Like he had to be overreacting. But where is Janelle? So I read another article from the Greeley Tribune written by a guy named Joe Moylan, and he said that the first person Jim called wasn't the police. It was actually his pastor. That seemed like an odd choice.
Well, not really for Jim. So James Christy was the pastor was actually one of his closest friends at that time, not just his pastor. So, I mean, you 100 percent texted me once when you thought Justin was missing, so I get it.
Very true. So anyway, he called his pastor friend to say, like, you know, this was happening. What should I do? And I'm sure he was hoping for some kind of reassurance like, oh, everything's going to be fine. You're overreacting. But James didn't think Jim was overreacting. He told him you should call the police and you should call them. Now, within fifteen minutes, police arrive at the Matthew's home and they're concerned to the TV room.
Looks as though she had just been there. There was that pillow. That was that space heater, just like Jim described, and a pair of slippers were missing and Janelle's shoes were there in the house along with that note. So they knew she made it home to a place where she should have been safe, but then somehow just vanished. Well, and for her shoes to be there, but her slippers to be missing, like they have to be assuming that something happened inside the house, right?
Yeah. I mean, I would I would think. Yeah. Like, she wouldn't have just walked outside without her shoes. It's winter. Exactly.
And now there is something else that was left behind in the TV room, but there are contradicting reports on what that was. So The Denver Post said that there were stockings left on the couch and the Greeley Tribune said that a shawl was left behind near the space heater. Now, all of the articles that I found mentioned one or the other. So I don't know if it's possible that both were found or if it was just one thing and it keeps getting mixed up.
And there's really no clarity on what they mean by stockings, like, ah, those socks are those tights.
Now, on Web sleuths, there was a commenter who said that her stockings and underwear were left behind, but I couldn't corroborate that from any legitimate news sources. So I, I don't think we can assume that underwear was there. We just have some kind of stockings. And I think what people often insinuate is that because her stockings were there, maybe there was some kind of sexual assault. But I, again, have never heard that report.
Yeah. And I mean, the person that's insinuating sexual assault is the motive. But if all we have our stockings, like if they're just like legit 80s tights, like, I would rip those off immediately when I was a little kid.
Oh, my God. Seems like to this day, like, if I have to wear any kind of like tights like that, the second I get home, they come up. So whatever kinds of stockings these were, if it was stockings at all, please take note of this and start looking around for any clues. Now, the only things of interest ever spoken about publicly were footprints around the home and in the backyard and possibly a missing gas can.
Now, as more and more police arrived at the Matthews home and concern for Janelle grew, a phone call came in. That would be extremely hard for Jim to take. Sometime between midnight and 1:00 a.m., Gloria had finally landed and arrived at her parents home in California, so she called home to let Jim know that she had made it safely.
But Jim wasn't like sounding tired or worn down, like she expected something was wrong. As soon as Jim answered that phone, Jim explained to her what was going on, that police had come by. They had no idea where Janelle was, but she had come home from the concert. And Gloria told the Greeley Tribune that in that moment, she knew something was wrong because of how early and dark it was when Janelle was reported missing. A formal search didn't really get underway until the next morning.
According to The Denver Post, the FBI was brought in right away and they started looking everywhere for Janelle and talking to everyone she knew, like she was 12 going on 13 at the time. So a lot of the questions they were asking revolved around whether or not Janelle would have willingly taken off on her own. But everyone in her life said there's just no way it wasn't a possibility that should be considered. And it was a sentiment that reconfirmed what police already thought.
Again, who leaves home in their slippers with the space heater on and doesn't take anything with them. Slowly, a reward fund began to mount and started just like 5000 dollars, but continually growing as people within the community tried to support the Matthews family in the early days of the investigation. Without any sign of Janelle and little to no physical evidence, only two persons of interest were on police radar. The first was Jim Matthews, Janelle's dad. Their suspicions of Jim, I think, were based on a couple of key factors.
And one is purely statistics. The Polly Klaas Foundation and ACMC both state that statistically, if a child goes missing, it's more likely as a result of something done by a family member rather than a stranger. And the only family member to have last seen her to have possibly been in the home with her was Jim. And it didn't help that Jim wasn't acting the way that police expected him to.
He was just too calm throughout the whole thing. So they kept an eye on him over the next few months, just watching him, looking into him and while looking into him and the family as a whole, they stumbled across their second person of interest, Janelle's mother, Gloria. No, not Gloria.
Police learned that Janelle had actually been adopted as an infant after having Jennifer, Jim and Gloria struggle to get pregnant again.
So they decided to open their home to another child any now at the time, they were living in California. And there was this agency out of Los Angeles that placed Janelle with the family. So she had grown up knowing she was adopted. Like it's not like this was a big secret, but she had never had any contact with her biological mother who police learned had given birth to Janelle when she was just 13 years old. But police kind of wonder, like maybe this woman came looking for Janelle.
Like, again, statistically, it's often parents who are involved in the disappearance and now they have like possibly another set of parents to be looking at. So really, the two people on their radar at this point are Jim and the biological mother. And they're watching them both now for again months while police are watching them. Christmas came and went. Janell's presents were still sitting under the tree, still wrapped slowly. 1984 turned into 1985 and just weeks into the investigation.
Now, the Mathew's were more distraught than ever, but they were getting support from unlikely places. The Daily Sentinel reported that just a couple of weeks into the investigation, the father of another missing girl actually came to help. 15 year old Beth Miller had disappeared the year before. In 83, she was out for a run near her Idaho Springs, Colorado, home and just never returned. So Beth's dad knew all too well the pain that the Mathew's were enduring and what an uphill battle it was to try and locate a missing kid.
How far is Grilli from Idaho Springs like? Are they thinking that they could be connected? So I looked into this a little. The two cities are just about an hour and a half drive from one another. But from what I can tell, there hasn't been any formal connection between these two cases. And the girls didn't have any kind of like things in common or common connections, common people. So I really think Beth Miller's dad just came out to show support for the family and to help them navigate the confusing and overwhelming waters that they were now in before anyone knew it was February 9th, which would have been Janelle's 13th birthday, with still no sign of her.
On her birthday, a massive search was conducted, one that The Denver Post called the largest in Greeley history and included 600 volunteers. But nothing was reportedly found. Janelle's parents did a ton of press in those first few months, and they passed out thousands of flyers trying to get as many. Many people as possible to see Janell's pictures, Janell's even one of the earliest cases of a missing child to be featured on a milk carton.
But all of this was getting them no closer to Janelle, and it was becoming apparent to her family that police were still focusing on Jim and Janell's bio mom. Now, they watched her bio mom for six months, day in and day out, following her, tracing her steps. But after six months, they were confident in ruling her out as a suspect. They said she had nothing to do with the disappearance and nothing in the last six months led them to believe that she had any kind of connection to Janelle.
Did she know she was a suspect? Like at all? Like, I know you said that she had never had contact with Janelle, but I'm kind of wondering if this was like her first introduction to Janelle and her family was just like finding out that her biological daughter was missing.
So I don't believe that she had any knowledge at the time that police were watching her for the entire six months that they were surveilling her. They never actually approached her or they didn't try to ever let onto the fact that she was being watched. And I mean, this is kind of Muddy Waters, right? Like, I don't know the exact reason for this.
I don't know if legally they couldn't make the connection or if they were trying to just handle this situation very delicately by choice. I mean, either way, her bio mom had no idea that they were watching her and no idea that her daughter was even a missing person at the time. In those same six months that they were watching her. They were also leaning hard on Jim. According to the Greeley Tribune, Jim was administered a polygraph by the FBI.
And the result, as far as I know, were never released. But a month after this first polygraph, they asked him to take another. And this is when Jim told Joe Movieland that he started to get mad.
He was basically like, listen, I get why you had to look at me. I was happy to cooperate. Like, I even get why you looked at me and didn't like me, because I acted weird, like I was very calm. I didn't act how you want like I was trying to keep it together so you guys could do your job. But I'm at the point where, like, I'm over it now. Stop looking at me and go find who actually took my daughter.
But there were no other suspects, no leads that they could follow until the middle of 1985 when something shocking was discovered.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the Greeley police were contacted by the Weld County Sheriff's Office, now Greeley was in Weld County. This is a local agency they would have been very familiar with. But the Weld County sheriff, Harold Andrews, tells Greeley police, hey, I have a piece of scalp over here. Wait, what? Yeah, Skalp. He says it's human and it has medium length, dark brown hair on it. And he knew Jenelle had had dark brown hair.
And he said, I think maybe you should come check this out in relation to that missing person case you guys have. And naturally, everyone's like kind of shocked and like, of course, asking all the important questions, like, where did you find this? When did you find this? How did you find it? Yeah. And Sheriff Andrews tells him, well, this piece is really small, like maybe an inch or two in diameter. And it was brought to this farmhouse by the farm dog who had found it somewhere.
And people called us when they realized, like, what it was. So the Greeley police are like, OK, like this is how you got it.
Did this just happen? Like, when did this happen? And the sheriff says, no, it didn't just happen. It happened two months ago. He's been sitting on this information for two months. Yeah. Like, has he never worked a missing persons case in his entire life? That is awful.
Yeah, I don't know what kind of cases he's worked, but the CSU class reported that Andrews waited to tell anyone about this because he said he was trying to verify that it was actually human and he didn't want to worry anyone before then.
So, you know, I think everyone's trying to do their best job, but but, like, time is critical. Like, it would have been great to, like, check this out early on. Maybe Greeley police has connections or could have done this testing faster, whatever they did in two months to figure out that it was human. It just seems like a long time. So when Greeley police finally get possession of that scalp, they send it off to the FBI for analysis.
But things like this take time. A lot of time the Matthews family wouldn't get results from that testing for months. But in October of 1985, the results do come back. Now, I don't know what testing was done exactly.
Like we know just from the time period that it probably wasn't DNA. This is 1985. So my best guess is that they were doing some kind of hair analysis, testing. But ultimately, the results on whether or not this hair scalp belonged to Janelle came back as inconclusive.
And the next thing they do is heartbreaking to me.
When they couldn't make any conclusive determinations about this through testing, they asked Gloria to actually look at the skull to see if the hair was like her daughter's. So she had to go in. She had to view it. She had to touch the hair, knowing that this could be all that was left of her youngest daughter.
But Gloria said that the hair didn't feel right. It wasn't her daughters. Gloria made this determination in November of 1985, and the one year anniversary of Danielle's disappearance was approaching. The family was going to have to spend another Christmas with part of their family missing. After that first year, Gloria eventually gave away Janelle's Christmas presents, and it was really starting to feel more final. Janelle might never come home. And even worse than that, they might never know where she is or what happened on that night back in 1984.
One year turned into two and then five. And it would be eight years before there was a new lead in the investigation. And the new lead came from 500 miles away.
In 1992, Greeley police get a call from a department in South Dakota and they tell them a man has been arrested. And in his home, they found a bunch of newspaper clippings of a bunch of missing children, and one of them was Janelle. So police looked into this extensively, but this man seemingly had no connection to Darnell or her family. And they found out that he was nowhere near Greeley at the time of her disappearance. So eight years and they just got another dead end.
Finally, in 1994, ten years after Janelle's disappearance, her family had her legally declared dead. You know, this brought with it some closure. The family was able to have a little ceremony. They had a place they could visit her if they wanted to. But she wasn't actually there. Yeah. Just two years after she was declared dead, the Matthews family got another shock when they received a letter in the mail, not from someone claiming to know about the case, but rather the letter came from Janelle's birth mom.
And according to The Washington Post, she wanted to finally meet Janelle, which is something Gloria knew Janelle had always wanted. But now it was too late. Gloria had to make contact with the woman and tell her the circumstances of. What had happened? Oh, my gosh, like as someone who was adopted, has adopted kids, like, I cannot imagine like having that conversation, even if something had happened to my kids biological family and they had wanted to reach out and that wasn't a possibility like that alone would be heartbreaking.
But to be an adoptive mom and be trusted with someone else's kids and then have to have that conversation with them saying, like, I know that you put your daughter in my hands and she's not here like that, I I'm literally about to cry.
I didn't stop talking about it. Yeah, it was super hard for Gloria, but something that she knew she had to do. Yeah, of course. Now more time passes for the family. And like so many cases, Janell's goes cold and gets overshadowed through the years by bigger cases like example, JonBenet Ramsey in Colorado, like many people, eventually like didn't know the case unless you lived in Greeley, like everyone outside of her hometown, never even knew her name.
But the Matthews could never forget. They thought about Janelle every single day, even as their lives moved on and they moved away from Greeley, Colorado, like they would never be able to forget her or what happened.
Now, over the 30 year time span following Danielle's disappearance, the family moved around a lot and lived even overseas. Like I know they spent some time in the Philippines. And eventually Gloria and Jim retired to Costa Rica. Gloria and Jim said that they had come to the realization long before it had been 30 years that they probably would never get answers, but it was their faith that kept them strong. And, you know, Brett, I'm not like overly religious, but there was this particular story that Gloria told Joe Moylan that broke my heart.
She said about six months in, she was just driving along. She was, you know, praying for Janelle's safe return. And as she drove, she said this, quote, I always end my prayers with Lord. You know, that we're going to give you all the honor and the glory. If we find Janelle the next instant, he's asking me, will you give me all of the honor and the glory if you never find her? That hit me so hard.
I started bawling right there on 35th Avenue and Tenth Street at the time. You're not ready to give up. It's just still so close and quote. So for 30 years, Gloria was still living in those words that she heard. What if you never find her now? Little things would spark hope over the years. In 2014, remains were found in Greeley and everyone speculated that it could be Janelle, but it was quickly ruled out. And there was a brief time when a girl came forward claiming to be Janelle, but it was quickly, again determined that it wasn't her.
And there were all these little pangs of hope that come and go and just quickly dash with the most hope came in 2013 when the Greeley police make a shocking announcement. They are taking a fresh look at the case. They're going to get active again and start exploring all possible leads, they said. And it seemed incredibly promising at the time, because, again, in that Joe Movieland article in the Greeley Tribune, he wrote, quote, Thanks to new evidence, police think there are people in the community or the surrounding area who might have information about Janell's disappearance that wasn't previously shared with law enforcement, end quote.
And the article went on to say that the investigators were focusing in extra hard on the concert that Janelle performed at before she disappeared. Now, in conjunction with making the statement, police also released video from that concert that shows Janelle the day that she went missing. And I'm going to send this to you. Tell me what you notice most about this video.
OK, so looks like a pretty normal Christmas concert. You know, they're just singing. It's pretty normal. She's wearing like a red shirt.
Yeah, like this. So this video is released by the police and they actually like circle like who she is. So we can, like, spot her.
Yeah, she's wearing a red shirt, a blue jumper. But what's really bothering me is that the camera is focused on her the entire time. Right. Like she is centered in the frame the whole time. Yeah.
Now, there was no information about this video released, so we don't know who took it, like where the police got it from. And it's totally possible that maybe they cropped it down so we could see her better.
But it's super weird, right? Definitely.
Now, there's also a lot of speculation online that in this video, which, by the way, we'll have a link to the Greeley police Facebook page where you can find this video for yourself. It'll be on the website. But there's a lot of speculation that at one point in the clip, people think that she's looking at someone and like makes a face. And I'll be totally honest, I don't see it. But for those who do, the question becomes, who is she looking at since none of her facial?
Was there well, and I mean, you said it like it's a super small town, I would think that she would know a lot of people there. Yeah, I agree.
Again, I don't even see it at all, but I don't read much into all of this. But I get why they want to look at it. I mean, all these years later, I think a couple of things have become very clear to police. Like no one, Jenelle was abducted. She can just walk off. Number two, it wasn't by a family member.
I mean, at this point, years and years and years later, they've ruled out her dad, they've ruled out her bio mom.
And most importantly, I think the person had to have either known or been watching Janat like they only had a one hour window. How did they know that her mom was gone and her dad and sister were gone? Like, were they the one to open the garage door? If so, how so? Police make it clear to the public they're looking for someone local or at least someone who was local back in 1984. And it felt like they were on to something like any day now.
They were going to make an announcement that they'd cracked the case. But then after this announcement in December, twenty eighteen, nothing happened, no arrests, no big announcements. So once again, the Matthews had to come to grips with the fact that answers may never come. Even with all of the fresh eyes in the world on the investigation and all the people who cared, it just wasn't coming together.
Gloria continued to lean on her faith and she and Jim tried to chair the daughter that they still had. And after living in Costa Rica for some time, they decided to move back to the state, specifically to the state of Washington, where Jennifer was living because they wanted to be close to her. But just a couple of days before they listed their house for sale, Gloria and Jim got the call that they thought was never coming. Janelle had been found.
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They finally had their daughter back and could properly lay her to rest.
Now, Janell's remains had been found purely by luck or fate or whatever you want to call it. In July of 2000, 19 workers attempting to dig an oil pipeline were the ones to actually find her remains. And her remains were not too far deep. It's like in the middle of this field, in the middle of nowhere.
Now they're partially covered in deteriorating clothing that matched what Ginelle had been wearing at that Christmas concert the night that she disappeared.
Where was this that she was found? So it was like this big open field and it was about 18 miles south of Greeley, according to the Colorado Sun.
Oh, so like pretty close to her home. Right? Right. So finding her was obviously an incredible leap forward in this investigation. And by September of twenty nineteen, just two months after finding her, police would go from having an absolutely ice cold case to naming publicly a person of interest. In September, they named a man that the Matthews family says they'd never heard of, Steve Pinki. Who is this guy? Where did he come from? Well, what we learn from police is that Steve Pankey had put himself right in police sights, but not just after her body was found.
He had inserted himself into the investigation within weeks of Jinno going missing.
And according to an article from Fox, Denver police say that through the years, Pankey made multiple efforts to contact police.
What was his angle like? Why was he contacting the police at all? So this is where things get kind of bunkers. Are you ready for this?
So police make this announcement about Steve being a person of interest. And so Steve does like a press tour and gives a couple of videotaped interviews and interviews for print as well, where he explains why police are looking at him and his connection to the case. And they are weird. Now, keep in mind, police have announced him as a person of interest, but he tells the Idaho Statesman that police consider him a suspect. So he's only one naming himself a suspect.
Now, I think the most informative interview he did was with KVI TV. It's this 51 minute long video. And we're going to link to that video on our website if you want to watch the whole thing. And usually, like, I give you all the highlights and it's not a hundred percent necessary, but I'm going to need you all to go watch this and tell me what you think, because there is so much to unpack here.
So here is what Steve tells them about how he first made contact with police and why he's on their radar. He says that he never met the Matthews family in his whole life, never knew them, never knew Janelle, even though they lived just minutes away from one another on the night Janelle went missing. Steve says that he was at home with his then wife and son.
Now, again, he lived a couple of miles away from her. So from his front door to her open garage door, it would only have been like a four minute drive or maybe like a 20 to 30 minute walk, maybe faster if you're walking fast. So he says he's at his home and without being asked anything about his car, he makes a point to talk about how his car's parked in the driveway. And it's just like packed to the brim with stuff because they're planning on leaving the next morning to go visit his parents for Christmas.
I don't like that at all. And it actually kind of brings me back to part of the story that we tell in our live show. Like, why is the car important? Are you telling us it was full? Because you're trying to put like it in our minds that it couldn't have been used for anything?
If you're going to spiral on everything he says, this is going to be a four hour episode. Like until like I'm telling you, there's a lot of weird stuff in here.
So he says on that night, the 20th, he's home and, you know, the car is packed to the brim in the driveway and he decides to look out of his window to see the snowfall coming down because he said that he was worried that he might not be able to get out if there's too much snow because they just had, like, this two wheel drive car. So he's looking out his window and he says that a car, which he assumes to be from like the sheriff's office, though I think in some places he says is unmarked.
This car pulls into his property with the lights on and he thinks to himself, oh, another arbitrary charge is coming my way. I'm sorry. What? Yeah, it's a weird thing to think. But he says multiple times throughout his interview that he had this, like, sordid past with the Greeley police and all these local law enforcement agencies, for that matter, when talking about his troubles with the police, he says, quote, I have a gay background, which really doesn't make sense right away.
But if you watch the whole video, like he talks way later about how he had this relative who was gay and.
Killed in police custody back in the forties or something, so I think he's kind of insinuating that police didn't at least like when he was growing up, like didn't take well to homosexuality. And like, you know, there was this, like stigma. There was this prejudice.
OK, but here's the thing. Like, he didn't have problems with police because of his, quote, gay background. Like he puts it, he had a sordid history with police because he kept having run ins with the law. So while working as a youth pastor at a local church, he was accused of rape. And this was back in the 70s. And the charges did eventually end up being dropped. But he lost his position in the church over it.
Now, in this interview, he tried to explain it away in his explanation to me, like, doesn't help. It's almost more problematic. He says he was sleeping with this woman. She got pregnant. She went overseas to England, had an abortion, and then comes back. And he says he's super pissed at her because she did that without asking his permission. And he says that once she came back, they had sex one more time. And then after they had sex, he threatened to go tell the church about her abortion because they're both, like, very heavily involved in this church.
So in his mind, he says this is why she accuses me of rape.
Wait a minute. I feel like there is so much to unpack in just like that one paragraph.
No, I'm telling you, this interview is crazy. I mean, even in this one story, there's like some very clear misogyny, emotional extortion with like a touch of hypocrisy. But this isn't all.
So in addition to this allegation, there were other charges against him for harassment. And according to Steve, there were like 20 separate incidents where he had run ins with the law. And he says most were dropped. A couple went to jury trials and he says that he won every single case. Do you know anything else about the harassment charges? Like is there like a defined victim profile? No. So I don't know anything at all.
I do know again, this is all from his interview that one of the harassment charges that went to trial was brought by his aunt and she said that he was leaving her harassing phone calls. And another harassment charge was from a man who Steve describes as, quote, He was a friend of mine, I'll just put it that way. So I don't know how to fully, like, read between the lines here, but the point is he's not a squeaky clean do like he had some run ins with the law.
So in his mind, when he's looking out this window to see the snowfall and this car that he thinks is like a sheriff's deputy pulls into his driveway, he thinks they're coming for him, which wasn't background or no background with law enforcement. I think it's a weird thing to think like I don't know, I haven't been the target of police scrutiny yet. Knock on wood.
But like, it's almost Christmas, a car pulls into your driveway and your first thought is that police are coming for you.
Yeah, like not maybe your neighbor is bringing cookies over or something super innocent or even just someone, like, took a wrong turn and is like turning around in your driveway.
But whoever was in the car, he says, parked there for a little bit, their lights are on the house, then they turn around and leave. Now when he's telling the story, he makes a note again, like when he's talking about this car coming in and out of the he's like property.
He makes a note again about how his car's there and his car is packed to the max. Now, he says he didn't think any more of the car and went inside. Then him and his family got up the next morning super early at like 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and left town. So he says they drive in silence. There's no radio on. So he wouldn't have heard any reports of Janelle being missing that night. He says it wasn't until they all returned to Colorado on the twenty six that he first heard Janelle's name on the radio.
And this is when he first learned that she's missing. But even then, he said it didn't ring any bells for him. He just made note of it. Then the next day on the 27th, he said his father in law came over a father in law that according to Steve, he is not on speaking terms with at the time. But this father in law comes to his house and he decides to speak to him on this day. And of all the things he could say, he tells him and off the wall story.
Steve says that his father in law, who is a groundskeeper at a cemetery, tells him this. He says a cop came to him and said that he had a body that need to be buried in a casket and that it would look bad for Steve.
So Steve says then that his first reaction is to ask his father in law if he's wearing a wire for police and he doesn't really explain why his mind went there. But he said he didn't know what was going on and like all of it, felt fishy, but his father in law wouldn't say any more. And then just left. And this is where like a conspiracy kind of starts to build in Steve's mind. He says it was the police who are responsible.
So he calls his lawyer to find out what he should do. But his lawyer is out of the country for a short time. So after he can't get a hold of his lawyer, he decides that he wants to search his own property, particularly close to where he had seen those headlights the night of the 20th. But he ends up finding nothing. Eventually, his lawyer got back to him and advised him to go to the police with whatever information he had.
And Steve said, you know, in this interview, he was super worried that if he didn't tell police his story, that he would basically be charged with obstruction, which I don't know if that's what his lawyer advised him or why he thought that.
But he says that's the reason he decides to call the FBI. He said, I called the FBI because I didn't want to deal with the police like we have such a sordid history. But I wanted to call them and tell them this story that my father in law told me. So the FBI takes a statement from him about this story, but they also are asking him other questions because, I mean, it's a weird story. So they're trying to learn more about Steve and about his past, like, could he have any connection to Janelle?
And it turns out that the church that he was a youth pastor at was the same one Janelle's family eventually went to. But it seems like they started attending after he had already left. But there's another loose connection to Janelle. Steve had a sordid history with Russ, the dad who dropped off Janelle the night that she went missing. Russ and Steve had worked together and had actually gone to court over some work related stuff. OK, but that seems like a pretty loose connection.
No, I totally agree. Whatever reason police think Steve Pankey is a person of interest for, I don't think it has to do with the church or with Russ. Now, after this, like, initial interview with the FBI, Steve says that he doesn't have much interaction with the cops. He says he never talked to them. While the cops say that Steve reached out multiple times over the years trying to make contact. Eventually, Steve and his family move away from Colorado and they end up in Idaho, where he joins a Latter Day Saints church.
Now, this is the mid 90s at this point. And Steve tells this story again, totally unprompted.
And it's wonderful, so to speak, go like he said that when he joined the church and got baptized, the bishop asked him if there's anything that he wanted to confess, anything maybe that's weighed heavy on him over the years.
And he says, well, there was this girl that went missing in Colorado when I was living there. She disappeared. And I had this weird conversation with my father in law about it, and it's always bothered me.
Now, again, this is like 92, 93, according to him at this point. So he's asked if in his life there has been anything that weighs heavy on his conscious. And mind you, we talked about kind of a sordid past, like lots of legal run ins, a woman who's accused him of rape.
And what weighs most on him is like an offhanded story from a guy who's now deceased about a girl who went missing in your hometown 10 years ago. I mean, I guess it's something that would stick with me if I had a conversation like that. No, I mean, listen, I believe it it would stick with me, too. But our lives are very vanilla and we're obsessed with stories like this. Now, granted, I mean, this was a big case in a small town, so I'm sure it would stick with anyone.
And Steve tries to say as much. He basically says, like, listen, the town had never had anything like this happen. It was all that was talked about. Here's the thing, though. When he tries to, like, make the sentiment, he messes up bad.
I got a copy of the newspaper and the General Matthews thing was all over it and was the only murder in the area that was at that time or disappearance at that time that was talked about. So. I. What I did is the very next week. The only murder in the area at the time, murder now he corrected himself and we do know now at the point that he's doing this interview, we do know that she was murdered. But when he's talking about this, he's like telling the story in the context of how things were in 84.
No one knew it was a murder. Then you would expect him to say disappearance. If you're talking about how things unfolded and how you remember the town reacting in 1984. Now, there really isn't a ton more that happens until December of 2018 when the case gets, like rejuvenated by police. And he says this is really when he has the most contact with them again is after December of twenty eighteen in April, the case seemed to be picking up steam.
And remember, this is before Janelle had ever been found. Police were tracking down Steve's family members. So they're looking at him before. They know that this is a murder investigation and it's still a missing person. They're tracking down Steve's family. And according to Steve, in his interview, police called his aunt's home and he talks to her and her husband. And they tell them that Steve's name is all over the case file. Now, after talking to family, Steve says that police eventually come to visit him and he says he willingly talks to police, says he even gives them a DNA sample.
He offers to take a polygraph. He offers to take a voice stress test. And he says he's the one that actually urged police to collect DNA because he said, listen, this is how it's all getting solved. Now, all cases like this are getting solved. DNA like this is how I'm going to clear my name. Yeah, I mean, it's been 34 years. I mean, after her body being out there are like there's probably not that much DNA to be found.
Right? Yeah, but here's the thing. I think it's kind of a moot point because the Colorado Sun has reported that police say a DNA collection never happened. Why lie about it? I don't know. But after Danielle's body was discovered, the heat gets turned up on Steve Pankey. And in early September, his Idaho town home was served with a search warrant. And it's kind of interesting what was on it like. I have a copy of the warrant and I'll put that on our blog post.
Basically, they're looking for all things digital, which seems pretty standard. You know, phones, computers, like any kind of storage. Right. I imagine they're looking for like a history of him maybe looking up her case, any kind of communications, maybe even illegal images on the computer. It doesn't say, but it says, you know, the warrant is served in connection with a kidnapping and a homicide. But they also specifically call out in the warrant that they're looking for, like diaries, journals, notes, anything like that.
So are they thinking that if he had something to do with it, he was maybe like writing about it? I have no idea. So to give you a little bit of perspective, it was just a week or two after they serve this warrant that they end up announcing that Steve Pankey is a person of interest. So I would assume that maybe they found something that would maybe help build a case as opposed to, like, ruling him out. Like if you found nothing, it seems like kind of a surprising thing to announce a person of interest when you didn't find anything.
But here's the catch. This all went down in September of 2019. Everyone's just been like holding their breath since because nothing has happened. Steve Pankey has only been named a person of interest. The only person who has ever called him a suspect has been himself. He swears he had nothing to do with it. And in the interview I saw, he actually implies, again, that perhaps police were involved like and it's super confusing. He kind of makes like reference to this, like these powerful people that were connected in that local church.
The basically saying there's some big conspiracy. So did they ever search the house that he originally got, like the one near Janelle's house? So I don't know if they ever searched the interior of the home.
I mean, it's been a long time, but I know that they did dig up like three spots on the property, but they didn't tell the press if they found anything when they did that. So we are all just waiting. It was a miracle that Janelle had been found.
Her sister, Jennifer, told the Associated Press that it could have gone so many other ways if they would have dug, you know, one foot to the right, one foot to the left. Her disappearance would still be a mystery to this day, but it's not. We know Janelle was murdered. Now we just need another little miracle to help police prove who murdered her. Well, we either need a miracle or maybe a deal. A deal? What do you mean?
In that interview with KTB, the reporter asked Steve, you know, there's someone who appears to be you that is commenting on some of the newspaper articles about this case. And he brings up to comment specifically and one of the comments made by this person who looks like Steve said, quote, Without a deal, this may never be resolved. So the reporter asked him about this and he admits it was him.
You you know, it looks as if it was you. That's common. Hit on a few stories online, right? The Greeley Tribune story as well as another one. Read the comments. One of the comments was to question mark. Why question mark? Yeah. And another comment was, without a deal, this may never be resolved. Right. What did you mean for what did you mean by without a deal, this may never be resolved. Uh.
Just just that without a deal, it may never be resolved. What kind of deal would you be looking for? Well, not necessarily for me, so we are left to wonder, are police still working on building a case or could it be time to make a deal to finally get justice for Janelle and catch a Christmas killer?
If you have any information that may be helpful in this case, contact the Greeley police tip line at nine seven zero three five one five one zero zero. We will have that number and a link to the gritty police site, along with pictures from this case and sources that we used all at our Web site, Crime Junkie podcast, Dotcom. And be sure to follow us on Instagram at Crunchie podcast. And guys, make note. We will actually not be back next week with a new episode since we brought you on for Christmas.
We are going to take some time off for New Year's to be with our family, but we'll be back January six with a brand new episode and stick around right now for a wonderful profit of the month story.
Crime junkie is an audio production.
So what do you think, Chuck, do you approve?
OK, Ashleigh, so today I'm going to tell you a little bit about a puppet named Cortana. OK, and Cortana is a boxer mix who kind of got bounced around a few different humane societies in Virginia. She was actually adopted twice before our listener, Megan adopted Trish, which is just so sad. The first time she was returned because she wasn't allowed to stay in the home that were originally adopted, her due to like the landlord's disapproval. And the second time the family soon welcomed a new baby.
So Cortana was just too much for them to keep and they brought her back again. And when Megan and her boyfriend first met Cortana at the Humane Society, she was the only dog in the kennels, not barking and just absolutely going nuts. They were in college. They had just moved into a new apartment building and they were like, we could do a quiet dog and asked to take her into the playroom, where she immediately brightened up, started zooming around, throwing toys to herself to get in her cage.
And Cortana was the perfect puppet for them. And since that day in 2016, Cortana has been adventuring with them nonstop. They've gone from Virginia to Washington, D.C., both the Carolinas and like honestly, all of the northeast coast, including New York City for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2017. And Cortana has done all sorts of amazingly fun things with them that like my dogs, I was just going to say I feel like this dog is more well traveled than some humans I know.
Oh, wait till you hear. She has gone to a Major League Baseball game, hiked to the Adirondacks on Blue Ridge Mountains, even gone to Niagara Falls. Like seriously way more traveled than me.
Yeah. Even how they're now all settled in Montreal, Quebec. And Megan said that this year has been a little bit tough because right around her fifth birthday, they discovered that she had amassed cell tumor and they decided to throw her a huge birthday party at her favorite place in Montreal, Le Doggie Café, where she had her very own birthday cake that she devoured. And a few weeks after her birthday, she had her big surgery in May to have her tumor removed.
And even though it was super, super scary, Cortana has been recovering just by literally holding my breath this whole time.
No, she spent all summer kayaking, swimming and even running with Megan a few times while she was training for a marathon. And Megan said right now they're just settling in for another snowy winter and back.
Oh, I'm so happy. That was a great I thought you were going to bring me down on Christmas. Oh, no, never. Never. But I do want to brag on you a little bit. And crime junkie, you did something really cool without even telling me. I did. Yeah. You got hooked up with Andy.
Oh, I did. Yeah. And we are going to talk a little. They sent you a great thank you email. For those of you who don't know, crime junkie is now sponsoring a kennel at Antihuman and they sent us a thank you note and included some information about the prophet who is living in the Crime Junkie podcast.
Ken. Oh, good good good byes. I hope we can get this puppy adopted. Me, too. And honestly, I didn't even really plan this when I picked Catana. But we are going to talk about Pablo, who is adoptable at the Humane, and he is also a boxer mix. Oh, and he was also adopted twice before landing back at Indy Humane, just like Catana. And he came to Humane when he was a puppy and he had a completely mangled leg.
And he actually spent like weeks in medical care and recovery. But he's doing amazingly now. He's super silly and loves to just, like, explode with energy. And that's one of the reasons that he got brought back. One time the family had another dog and they brought him back because they said that Pablo and other dogs played all the time and it was too much for them to handle, which like, that's all I want in life is to play with puppets.
I wouldn't say I think that's sweet and inhumane. Said that, you know, Pablo's future family should know that, like, he is ready to live his fullest life and they're looking for a doctor with an active lifestyle filled with fun toys, positive training sessions, and, of course, all of the cuddles. So, guys, we're going to put a picture of Pablo up on our website. He is the sweetest boy. I just Christianize hope will find his forever home.
Yeah. Pablo, give him a home like Cortana. We love you. And thank you for everything you guys are doing over at Antihuman. We love you guys. Merry Christmas.