Eugene Matthews, charged with second-degree murder with a firearm in the fatal shooting of his late best friend’s ex-wife, was denied bond despite the defense’s stated intention to launch a stand-your-ground defense.
Just before 7 p.m. Jan. 10, Rebecca Rawson, along with her brother-in-law and daughter, went to Matthews’ home in the 2900 block of Pritchart Road in Parrish to retrieve her late husband’s dog, detectives with the Manatee Homicide Investigative Unit say. When Rawson’s brother-in-law knocked on the front door and Matthews’ girlfriend answered, he called for the dog, “Bart,” picked him up and turned to walk away, according to the sheriff’s office.
Matthews, 83, appeared in the doorway armed with a handgun, walked out and began shooting. Detectives say three shots were fired, and as the Rawson family tried to flee, their vehicle crashed into a wooden fence.
Three bullets hit the car — one struck the windshield and hit Rebecca Rawson in the face, the sheriff’s office has said. She was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital, where she later died.
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Matthews’ defense attorney, David Rieth, argued that he has grounds for a stand-your-ground defense because the Rawson family came onto his property unannounced after dark, broke through his locked gate and kicked his front door.
“Despite what people would say about him, he has never been convicted of anything,” Reith said.
Assistant State Attorney Darlene Ragoonanan, however, said that based on the evidence coupled with Matthews’ own statements, the case meets the standards under the Arthur rule, required in a 1980 Florida Supreme Court ruling that allows for a defendant to be held in pretrial detention without bond if “the proof of guilt is evident and the presumption of guilt is great.”
Mathews made admissions to the fatal shooting during his calls from the jail, lead homicide Detective Darryl Davis testified Wednesday.
“The first call stated he shot the car full of holes,” Davis said of a call made Jan. 11. “At first, he stated that he didn’t know who was in the vehicle and later on he identified (Rawson’s daughter).”
Davis denied what he called Reith’s interpretation of the evidence that the damage on the Rawson family’s car was consistent with crashing through the gate.
Homicide Detective Dan Dickerman also was questioned about damage to the gate and fence on Matthews’ property.
“The front bumper appeared to have been pulled off, pulled forward ... consistent with going backwards along the tracks into the ditch,” Dickerman said.
Dickerman explained how it would have been impossible for the Rawson’s car to end up in the ditch, given the scenario the defense was suggesting. Davis had interviewed others who were home or on the property at the sheriff’s office operations center, while Dickerman had remained on scene, both detectives explained.
“This is what the evidence says,” Dickerman said. “I was investigating the physical evidence without being tainted by the verbal evidence.”