Jesse Mathews pleads guilty to killing Chattanooga police sergeant (with video)

Jesse Mathews pleads guilty to killing Chattanooga police sergeant (with video)

December 1st, 2012 by Todd South in Local Regional News

Jesse Mathews is led into Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom Friday where he accepted a plea offer from prosecutors. He will serve life without parole plus 25 years for the 2011 shooting death of Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

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Mathews timeline

2003: Jesse Mathews, then 17 and charged with 10 counts of armed robbery and a total of 31 crimes in Colorado Springs, Colo., pleads guilty to one armed robbery count and is sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Feb. 12, 2011: Mathews fails to report back to a halfway house in Colorado Springs, where he was serving his sentence. Police suspect him in the robberies of a fast-food restaurant, a pharmacy and a pawnshop.

March 6, 2011: The Mathews family arrives in Chattanooga and moves into the Microtel Hotel at 7014 McCutcheon Road, using the last name Moore.

Around March 16, 2011: Mathews' parents move into a duplex at 3921-A Webb Oaks Court, near Bonny Oaks Drive.

March 27, 2011: Jesse Mathews attends a gun show at Chattanooga's National Guard Armory, trading three guns for an M-4 assault rifle.

April 2, 2011: Mathews attempts to hold up the U.S. Money Shops pawnshop on Brainerd Road and gets into a shootout with Chattanooga police. Sgt. Tim Chapin is killed and Officer Lorin Johnston is wounded along with Mathews.

April 7, 2011: Chapin is buried. Crowds of fellow officers escort the funeral cortege and city residents line the Hixson Pike/Highway 153 route to pay respects.

April 8, 2011: Mathews is released from Erlanger hospital and booked into jail on charges of felony murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of especially aggravated robbery.

April 8, 2011: Mathews' parents, Kathleen and Ray Mathews; sister, Rachel; and sister's boyfriend, James Poteete, are arrested on charges of aiding him after he escaped from the halfway house and helping him get to Tennessee.

April 26, 2011: Ray, Kathleen and Rachel Mathews and James Poteete are indicted on charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, being accessories after the fact, misprision of felonies and related firearms charges.

May 5, 2011: Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman names private attorneys Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss to represent Jesse Mathews, replacing the Hamilton County Public Defender's Office.

Aug. 10, 2011: Rachel Mathews and James Poteete plead guilty in federal court to conspiring to obstruct justice and being an accessory after the fact to a violent crime.

Sept. 15, 2011: Jesse Mathews' girlfriend, Amber Vlasak-Hudson, is indicted on charges of accessory after the fact and failing to report knowledge of a felony.

Sept. 21, 2011: Ray and Kathleen Mathews plead guilty to conspiracy to hide Jesse Mathews from police and of transferring firearms for him.

Feb. 13, 2012: Kathleen Mathews is sentenced to 30 years and six months in federal prison. Ray Mathews is sentenced to 20 years and 10 months. Rachel Mathews gets 11 years and three months, and James Poteete gets six years and seven months.

April 23: The National Association of Police Organizations names Officer Lorin Johnston one of the nation's 10 Top Cops for his role in the shootout.

May 23: Gun dealer Kevin Dawson, of Ooltewah, who police say traded weapons with Jesse Mathews at the 2011 gun show, is arrested on federal charges of dealing in firearms without a federal license and transfer or possession of a machine gun.

June 26: Dawson is indicted along with Jack Wardlaw, of Columbia, Tenn., and brothers Carl and Richard Monroe, of Athens, Tenn., on charges of dealing in firearms without a license and selling to people prohibited from having weapons. The men were ordered to forfeit 323 firearms.

Aug. 17: Steelman issues a gag order after Jesse Mathews agrees to jailhouse interview with Times Free Press. Newspaper appeals.

Sept. 17: Steelman modifies the gag order so Mathews' attorneys can speak to the media.

Oct. 22: Mathews' attorneys ask to interview the federal prosecutor who handled cases against Mathews' family. They wish to use testimony from prosecutor Steve Neff that Kathleen Mathews manipulated her son in mitigation during sentencing.

Nov. 7: Jury screening begins in Mathews' trial among a pool of jurors in Nashville-Davidson County. They were to be brought to Hamilton County for the January trial.

Nov. 13: Federal prosecutors deny a defense request to interview prosecutor.

Nov. 15: Mathews defense files motion seeking to interview U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice, who sentenced Kathleen Mathews, to testify about her "evil" influence on her son.

Nov. 28: Mattice recuses himself from any future involvement in Mathews' federal proceedings at defense request. Attorneys say this might delay Mathews' trial.

Nov. 29: Mattice denies the defense request for his testimony.

Nov. 30: Jesse Mathews pleads guilty.

Jesse Mathews avoided a death penalty trial by pleading guilty Friday to killing Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin.

He likely will die in prison.

District Attorney Bill Cox called the sentence a death penalty in itself.

"You go to the penitentiary; you stay there until you die," Cox said. "You wake up every morning knowing you're never going to leave until they carry you out."

Mathews replied with simple yes or no answers to Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman's questions during his 40-minute hearing before Steelman accepted his guilty plea and handed down a sentence of life in prison without parole plus 25 years.

The guilty plea eliminates appeals for Mathews, something a trial would not, Cox explained.

Cox said defense attorneys Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss approached him with the offer of a plea for the life sentence Wednesday. He met with Chapin's family the same day to get their approval and then met with police staff Thursday.

Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd said after the hearing that he hopes the sentence can allow the family, police and the community a chance to heal and find some kind of closure.

"Tim and I were friends; it was a tragic situation. It's almost like you're in a dream sometimes when something like that happens," he said.

END OF WATCH

Area law officers who have died by violence since 1975:

Sgt. Tim Chapin, Chattanooga Police Department. Shot by Jesse Mathews during botched robbery April 2, 2011.

Deputy Anthony Shane Tate, Grundy County Sheriff's Office. Shot by Kermit Eugene Bryson on June 5, 2008, while serving a warrant. Bryson committed suicide later that day.

Officer Julie Jacks, Chattanooga Police Department. Shot with her own service weapon May 6, 2002. Isaac Eugene Jones convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years.

Deputy Donald Bond, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. Shot by Marlon Duane Kiser on Sept. 6, 2001. Kiser remains on Tennessee's death row.

Deputy Brett C. Dickey, Gilmer County, Ga., Sheriff's Office. Shot and killed Feb. 13, 1996, while serving a warrant. Tommy Lamar Pickren sentenced to life without parole.

Officer Harry Wilcox, Chattanooga Police Department. Shot to death with his own service weapon on Jan. 18, 1979. The suspect was found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Officer David L. Friederichsen, Chattanooga Police Department. Shot to death June 18, 1978, while answering a domestic disturbance call with his partner, Nelson Hess. The officers returned fire and killed the suspect.

Officer Nelson I. Hess V, Chattanooga Police Department. Killed in same call as Friederichsen.

Chief Deputy Baxter Shavers, Catoosa County Sheriff's Office. Shot to death with his service weapon by a robbery suspect on April 14, 1978. Detective George Brown also was shot but survived. The shooter's death sentence later was reduced to life.

Patrolman Clarence E. Hamler, Chattanooga Police Department. Shot when he interrupted a grocery store robbery on Aug. 14, 1977. Hamler's brother picked up his weapon and shot one robber to death. The other was caught five months later and sentenced to death, later commuted to life.

"Hopefully he'll regret what he did for the rest of his life until he dies in prison," Dodd said of Mathews.

Davis said he had offered the plea to the district attorney for more than a year, but he understood it likely would take time for the family to process it and decide what to do.

"With this case now closed it allows Tim Chapin's memory to be the focus and not the potential of a death penalty for Jesse Mathews," Davis said. "When you're caught up in a death penalty trial; the victim is all too often lost."

The Chapin family declined to comment to the media after the hearing and said they would issue a statement later.

In February 2011 the 27-year-old Mathews fled a Colorado halfway house, where he was serving a sentence for armed robbery. He came to Chattanooga to meet his family, who had come here from North Carolina.

On April 2, 2011, he robbed the U.S. Money Shops store on Brainerd Road. When Chattanooga police arrived, he fired a .45-caliber pistol at them and ran.

Chapin confronted Mathews and the pair got into a brief gunfight before Mathews killed the veteran police sergeant.

Staff writer Kate Harrison contributed to this story.