The parents of a 26-year-old man indicted on charges he killed a Chattanooga police sergeant have decided to plead guilty to helping their fugitive son before and after the killing.
Federal prosecutors charged Kathleen and Ray Mathews just weeks after police had arrested their son Jesse Mathews on April 2. Each faced 11 counts including: tampering with a witness, victim or informant; accessory after the fact; withholding information on a crime; and selling firearms to addicts, felons, fugitives.
Prosecutors also charged Kathleen Mathews with three counts of unlawful transport of firearms. In their arraignment hearings each pleaded not guilty.
The pair have a change of plea hearing set for Sept. 21, according to court documents.
Jesse Mathews was a federal fugitive who had left a halfway house while on parole for an armed robbery conviction in Colorado. Shortly after leaving the house he robbed pawn shops of jewelry, cash and firearms, according to authorities.
District Attorney Bill Cox and Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston are seeking the death penalty against Jesse Mathews in state court.
The next scheduled court date for Jesse Mathews is Oct. 11 on first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and aggravated robbery charges.
Prosecutors have said in previous hearings that Jesse Mathews' family sold some of his stolen goods at a local gun show and area pawn shops in the weeks after his flight. They also charged that family members hid evidence and lied to police following Jesse Mathews' arrest in the botched robbery of a Chattanooga money store and the shooting death of Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin.
The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on the ongoing case. Court documents show that on Friday change of plea hearings were set for Kathleen and Ray Mathews.
Ray Mathews' attorney Lee Ortwein gave this statement regarding his client's decision to plead guilty: "Mr. Mathews is distraught about the events leading to the death of Sgt. Chapin and hopes that his cooperation with authorities will at least, in some way, demonstrate his remorse to all of the citizens of Chattanooga."
Kathleen Mathews' attorney, Federal Public Defender Anthony Martinez, did not return phone and email messages seeking comment Friday afternoon.
Jesse Mathews entered the U.S. Money Shops on Brainerd Road on April 2 and held the store staff at gunpoint, demanding money, gold and jewelry, according to witness testimony in his state court preliminary hearing.
During the robbery a store employee triggered a silent alarm and Chattanooga police responded. When Jesse Mathews spotted an officer he began firing a semiautomatic pistol.
A brief gunfight ensued. Store employees fled out of the side of the building. Jesse Mathews also exited the building and began to jog around the back. That's when Chapin arrived on scene, bumping Jesse Mathews with his patrol car, which caused Mathews to drop his gun. Chapin got out of his car and Tasered Mathews.
Jesse Mathews rose, pulled out a concealed pistol and fired it at Chapin, a witness testified. The pair traded shots until one of Mathews' bullets struck the sergeant at close range and killed him, according to testimony.
Police subdued Jesse Mathews within minutes of the slaying. A neighbor held Jesse Mathews at gunpoint from his yard, according to court testimony.
Jesse Mathews' sister, Rachel Mathews, 21, and her boyfriend James Poteete, 26, pleaded guilty on Aug. 10 to aiding Jesse Mathews before the robbery. Prosecutors charged the pair with the same 11 counts both Ray and Kathleen Mathews face. Rachel Mathews and Poteete have a sentencing hearing scheduled for Nov. 14.