published Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Death penalty notice filed in Mathews case

  • photo
    Jesse Mathews, suspect in the shooting death of Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin.
    Contributed Photo

Hamilton County District Attorney General Bill Cox has filed a notice he’ll seek the death penalty for a 25-year-old man accused of killing a local police sergeant.

On April 27, a Hamilton County grand jury indicted Jesse Ray Mathews on six charges related to an April 2 attempted robbery of the U.S. Money Shops on Brainerd Road and the gunbattle that killed Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin.

Mathews is scheduled for arraignment before Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman on Friday.

Cox said the arraignment would be Mathews’ initial appearance in Criminal Court, where his formal charges will be read and he’ll have the opportunity to enter a plea. Cox did not comment on the death penalty filing.

Prosecutors had said previously that they would seek the death penalty.

Chief Assistant District Public Defender Karla Gothard, who represents Mathews in the case, said the actual death penalty filing will mean the court will appoint Mathews a “second chair” — an additional attorney. Though three attorneys from the public defender’s office have worked together so far on the case, they count as one representative from the defender’s office.

The filing also opens up resources not normally available, such as funding for expert witnesses and an independent investigator for the defendant, she said.

Witness testimony and documents state that Mathews shot and killed Chapin while trying to flee from a robbery.

Upon his arrest, police charged Mathews with felony murder, especially aggravated robbery and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

His indictment now charges him with felony murder and first-degree murder, two related charges that merge upon conviction, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of aggravated robbery.

Mathews’ father, Ray Vance Mathews; mother, Kathleen Mathews; sister, Rachel Mathews; and her boyfriend, James Poteete, face a July 5 trial in federal court on charges they helped Mathews before and after the robbery in Chattanooga and lied to police concerning his whereabouts.

Mathews also is a suspect in connection with a string of pawnshop robberies in February in Colorado.

Documents state that Mathews also fired at Chattanooga police officers Lorin Johnston, Mark Bender and David Ashley. Johnston testified in Mathews’ April hearing.

Tennessee law states that especially aggravated robbery includes physical harm to the people being robbed. There have not been public reports of Mathews harming the occupants of the store during the robbery.

about Todd South...

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 ...

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Anything LESS than the death penalty is a NO-NO in this case. He took the life of a respected, well loved officer and family man, Sergeant Timothy Chapin.

May 5, 2011 at 11:21 a.m.
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