Jesse Mathews facing death penalty

Jesse Mathews facing death penalty

April 9th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil and Beth Burger in News

Jesse Ray Mathews, the suspect in the shooting death of Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin, was booked into the Hamilton County Jail about 12:45 p.m. Friday. He was charged with one count of felony murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of especially aggravated robbery, records show.

With guns and weapon tattoos covering his chest, he told one neighbor he just got back from serving in Iraq.

Another woman said he seemed somewhat normal but his family kept to themselves during the short time they lived in her neighborhood.

Residents were shocked Friday when they learned that their former neighbor, 25-year-old Jesse Mathews, was the man accused of shooting and killing Chattanooga police patrol Sgt. Tim Chapin on April 2. According to authorities, Mathews was running from the scene of his latest robbery.

"I'm ready for them to hang him," said Michelle Nickson, who has two small children and lives across the street where Mathews' parents moved in last month. "That was a very nice police officer he killed."

And it's possible Mathews may die if he's convicted of the crimes with which he's charged.

"Based upon the facts filed in the affidavit, this case qualifies for the death penalty," said Hamilton County District Attorney General Bill Cox, who requested that Mathews be held without bond pending his trial.

Mathews, who has two drains along his jaw line in a jail mugshot, was discharged from Erlanger hospital Friday and booked into Hamilton County Jail on a charge of felony murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of especially aggravated robbery.

A 63-year-old man who lives next door to Mathews' girlfriend, where Mathews was living, said he was shocked when he learned that the 25-year-old had been charged in the killing. The man related to Mathews because he claimed he had served overseas in the military, the same as the man's daughter.

"I was surprised. He seemed like a humble person. I guess people can say whatever, though," the neighbor said, declining to give his name.

Mathews is being kept apart from his parents, Kathleen and Ray Mathews, who were arrested Friday on felony charges of aiding him after he escaped from a prison halfway house in Colorado and headed to Tennessee.

Mathews' sister, Rachel Mathews, also has been charged with helping him.

Colorado police accuse Jesse Mathews of robbing a pawnshop in Colorado Springs on Feb. 12 and stealing 16 firearms, $10,000 and some jewelry.

Tim Gobble, deputy chief of corrections at the Hamilton County Jail, said Mathews is in isolation and under observation 24 hours a day because of the nature of his charges.

He declined to describe Mathews' injuries, but said the suspect will continue to receive medical care through the jail's medical clinic, which is contracted through Erlanger.

The arrests come a day after Chapin, a 26-year veteran of the Chattanooga Police Department, was laid to rest.

Two guns that Jesse Mathews is accused of using in the robbery of U.S. Money Shops pawnshop on Brainerd Road were loot from the Colorado Springs robbery, authorities said.

Family affair

Bill Killian, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, said at a news conference Friday that Mathews' parents, Kathleen Mathews, 57, and Ray Mathews, 50, are charged in connection with helping Mathews escape Colorado and set up shop in Chattanooga. Mathews' sister, 21-year-old Rachel Mathews of Asheville, N.C., and her boyfriend, 26-year-old James Poteete, of Antioch, Tenn., also are charged.

All four face charges of accessory after the fact, possession of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and misprision of a felony, the withholding of knowledge about a committed felony to authorities.

The parents also face charges of disposing firearms to a convicted felon.

Kathleen Mathews also faces an additional charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition since she was previously convicted of manslaughter during the commission of a house burglary in Florida, Killian said.

All were arrested without incident, Killian said.

He said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, FBI, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Chattanooga Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office helped develop the charges.

Poteete was released on $30,000 bond Friday and is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday at 2 p.m. He declined to comment as he paced the block around the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building for about an hour before leaving with his lawyer.

Kathleen Mathews, a diabetic with a morphine prescription, sat in a wheelchair with her arms pulled into her sleeves, rocking quietly back and forth as her charges were read Friday in U.S. District Court. She will stay in jail as she awaits further proceedings.

Rachel Mathews was arrested Thursday in Asheville on a charge of violating probation from a misdemeanor larceny charge, according to Buncombe County court records. She faces extradition to Tennessee, according to authorities.

Ray Mathews waived his hearing until Wednesday at 2 p.m., giving his lawyer time to prepare.

Killian said he opposed the release of anyone involved.

"They are a flight risk, among other things," he said.

He noted that all three knew that Jesse Mathews had escaped from prison and said they helped him get away after the Colorado robberies.

If convicted, the four could face up to 15 years on the accessory after the fact charge. The rest of the counts carry up to 10 years each, Killian said.

Jesse Mathews was convicted of robbery in 2003 at age 17 and had served eight years of a 20-year sentence when he was released to a halfway house, according to the federal affidavit.

Afterward the Feb. 12 robbery in Colorado, he wired part of the money to Rachel to fly her to Colorado and aid his escape, the affidavit states.

Rachel and Mathews' girlfriend in Colorado, Amber Vlasak, help him elude authorities, authorities said. It was unclear Friday whether Vlasak has been charged.

Arriving in Chattanooga on March 6, Mathews and his parents moved into the Microtel Hotel at 7014 McCutcheon Road, using the last name of Moore, according to the affidavit.

The hotel manager, who declined to be named, said the family had a dog and that she rarely saw Mathews as they stayed at the hotel for about a week.

Mathews met a woman at the hotel and they began dating, according to the affidavit. The manager declined to comment on the relationship.

The Colorado Department of Corrections contacted Mathews' parents asking about his whereabouts and Kathleen Mathews stated she had not seen her son, the affidavit states.

By March 16, Mathews' parents moved into a duplex at 3921-A Webb Oaks Court, near Bonny Oaks Drive. Among the items moved into the home was a bulletproof vest that Jesse Mathews wore during the Chattanooga robbery, according to Poteete's statement to authorities.

Mathews attended a local gun show on March 27 where he and his new girlfriend spoke to someone about a trade, authorities said. Mathews phoned his parents and told them to bring "the family collection," referring to the guns. He traded three guns for an M-4 assault rifle, the affidavit said.

The Mathews family planned to put him on a bus and send him to New York to get a fake ID for a run to Canada, the affidavit said, but for unknown reasons, Mathews never left.

He carried the M-4 in a guitar case and it was found in his girlfriend's car at the U.S. Money Shops store last week.

Chapin was one of several officers responding to a robbery call at the store when he was killed.

Killian said authorities have recovered most of the firearms.

The source of the body armor is still under investigation, Killian said.