A Hamilton County Criminal Court judge has moved a hearing date to Oct. 11 for a 26-year-old man accused of killing a local police sergeant.
Prosecutors seeking the death penalty for Jesse Ray Mathews, 26, requested more time as they await results from laboratory tests of evidence in the shooting death of Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is doing the testing.
Judge Barry Steelman agreed Tuesday to push back the hearing date but also said he likely will set a trial date for Mathews at the hearing.
District Attorney Bill Cox told Steelman that he and Mathews’ attorneys had exchanged information in the process known as “discovery” and that the reports are expected within the next 60 days.
During the 10-minute hearing, Steelman checked with Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss, Mathews’ defense team, and the prosecutors to ensure that preparations for a possible trial were on schedule.
Local reporters aimed a bank of cameras, recording devices and even smartphones at Chapin’s family — including his wife, Kelle Chapin; his brother Paul Chapin; and sister Lisa Chapin Roberson — all seated shoulder-to-shoulder with other family members behind Cox and Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston.
Chapin’s family, a handful of supporters and media were the only people in attendance.
Mathews, wheelchair bound in the first hearing following his April arrest, shuffled into the courtroom in a red Hamilton County Jail jumpsuit, orange flip-flops and socks. He was shackled at the wrists and ankles. Deputies stood guard at each door, and two stood near Mathews throughout the hearing.
Security for all of his hearings has had more than double the typical amount of officers present in court, and an additional metal detector has been placed outside the courtroom for each of his three appearances.
As Mathews left the courtroom at the end of the hearing, Kelle Chapin sobbed, her shoulders shaking. Once Steelman ended the hearing, she walked briskly out of the courtroom with the rest of the family, muttering, “I’m going to be sick.”
Roberson told reporters after the hearing that she “had a lot of anger” and questioned the expense of security and court proceedings on Mathews’ behalf.
Attorneys on both sides declined to comment on the case.
Police arrested Mathews on April 2, minutes after he reportedly killed Chapin, 51, in a shoot-out during a botched robbery at the Brainerd Road U.S. Money Shops.
Mathews had taken store employees hostage and fired at two other officers during the robbery, witnesses said. As he fled around the back of the store on foot, Chapin confronted him.
The sergeant first fired a Taser, which didn’t deter Mathews, who turned, pulled out a concealed semiautomatic pistol and began firing at the sergeant, according to court testimony. The two traded gunfire until one of Mathews’ bullets struck and killed Chapin.
At the time, Mathews was a fugitive who’d traveled from Colorado to Tennessee with the help of his sister Rachel Mathews, 21, and her boyfriend, James Poteete, 26.
Jesse Mathews was on parole for armed robbery and living in a halfway house in Colorado before robbing at least two pawn shops of jewelry, cash and guns in Colorado Springs. He hid in Chattanooga for a few weeks before the robbery attempt.
Chapin was a 27-year veteran of the police force and the father of two children.
Rachel Mathews and Poteete pleaded guilty Aug. 10 in federal court to conspiring to obstruct justice, being an accessory after the fact to a violent crime and for aiding Jesse Mathews before the shooting and hiding information from police afterward.
Both are scheduled for sentencing Nov. 14.
Jesse Mathews’ parents, Ray and Kathleen Mathews, also have been charged with aiding their son during his flight and hiding information from police after the shooting. The pair were living near Asheville, N.C., before Jesse Mathews fled Colorado but left their home to meet him in Chattanooga.
Plea agreements for Ray and Kathleen Mathews are due by Aug. 23 in federal court. Their trial is scheduled for Sept. 6.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...