Human remains discovered in the Snake River more than a week ago have been positively identified as those of missing Grangeville woman, Shawnta L. Pankey. However, this resolves only part of the year-long mystery that remains under investigation by the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office.
“We still believe suspicious circumstances were involved,” said ICSO Detective Jerry Johnson, “so we’re investigating this case as if a crime occurred.”
An autopsy is planned for this week in Spokane to attempt to determine the cause and manner of death.
Those with information on the case are asked to contact ICSO: 208-983-1100.
ICSO stated, “Our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with Shawnta’s family.”
According to a May 7 Lewiston Tribune story, a Nez Perce County Search and Rescue volunteer found a skull and other bones along the river south of Lewiston on Sunday, May 5. The skull was found near Buffalo Eddy on the Idaho side of the river. The Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Office dive team searched the area Sunday and Monday, finding bones both in the river and on the bank.
According to the Nez Perce County Coroner’s Office, the partial skeletal remains were positively identified as Pankey. This was done through dental records, and with cooperation from ICSO and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
Last Thursday evening, May 9, Nez Perce County Coroner Joshua Hall notified ICSO detectives who then immediately contacted Pankey’s family. Shortly following, Pankey’s sister, Cayla Young, announced the confirmation on social media, stating, “The family and I would like to let everyone know that the body remains that were found in the river have been confirmed to be my beautiful, loving sister Shawnta's.”
Pankey, 25, disappeared a year ago Sunday, April 15, 2018, with her last known sighting at Oscar’s Apartments in Grangeville. Video surveillance cameras confirmed she and her boyfriend, Edward M. Mills, left from Oscar’s Apartments around 2:15 a.m. that Sunday, videoed prior making several trips to the vehicle with items for a trip. Mills pulled the camper from Pine Bar to near Keuterville and returned to the apartment alone around 11:06 a.m. that same morning.
Reported by Mills was the pair was camped at Pine Bar along the Salmon River south of Cottonwood. The pair had an argument and he reported Pankey went on a walk around 10 a.m.
She was reported missing the following day by her mother after she failed to pick up her daughter, Sophee.
Hundreds of hours have been invested into the investigation by the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, which has involved its investigators and deputies, assisted by volunteers, search dogs and drones, door-to-door inquiries in neighboring communities and following leads provided by the public.