Eugene Matthews and his live-in-girlfriend face a wrongful death lawsuit in connection to the fatal shooting of his best-friend’s ex-wife, who Matthews is charged with killing.
Matthews, 83, is charged with second-degree murder with a firearm in the death of Rebecca Rawson and could face up to life in prison if convicted. He is also charged with two counts of first-degree attempted murder for shooting at Rawson’s daughter and brother-in-law.
He remains in custody at the Manatee County jail, where he has been held without bond since his Jan. 10 arrest, as he awaits trial.
Matthews is set to stand trial during the two-week trial period that begins Oct. 2.
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Last month, Rawson’s daughter filed a lawsuit against Matthews and his live-in-girlfriend, Juanita Sills, claiming damages in excess of $15,000, in addition to interest, attorney’s fees and court costs.
According to the sheriff’s office, Rawson, her daughter and brother-in-law had gone to Matthews’ home to retrieve her ex-husband’s dog, Bart. Rawson’s ex-husband had recently died, and Matthews has repeatedly claimed that his best friend gave him the dog beforehand.
On the evening of Jan. 10, Rawson’s brother-in-law knocked on Matthews’ front door, according to detectives, and Sills answered the door. He called out for Bart, picked him up, turned to head back to the car and then Matthews came to the door shooting his gun.
Matthews has not denied shooting his gun but his attorney has argued in court that he has a defense based on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law because the Rawsons came onto his property unannounced after dark, broke through his locked gate and kicked his front door.
In the nine-page complaint filed July 7, Rawson’s daughter alleges that Matthews and Sills were only watching Bart and had invited them over to retrieve the dog. When Rawson’s brother-in-law was walking back to the car with Bart, the complaint alleges that Sills called out to Matthews and told him to bring a gun.
In the lawsuit, Sills is alleged to have been negligent by telling Matthews to get the gun and not stopping him from shooting at the Rawson family. The second count alleges that Matthews was negligent by firing at the Rawson family and killing Rebecca Rawson as a result.
The lawsuit seeks damages because of the financial loss to Rawson’s daughter, including the medical and funeral expenses as well as the loss of wealth to her mother’s estate. Damages are also sought as a result of the pain, suffering and mental anguish her mother’s death has caused her.
Matthews and Sills each received a summons, requiring they file written defenses within 20 days. Matthews, who was served with his summons on July 21, has not filed a written defense, according to court records.
On Aug. 7, Sills attorney, Nelon Kirkland, filed a written defense on her behalf denying the allegations.