MANATEE — A man charged with killing a 79-year-old woman while burglarizing her home entered a plea deal Tuesday, which saved his life but ensured he’ll remain behind bars for the duration.
Richard W. Matthews Jr., 32, pleaded no contest to first-degree murder, burglary with assault or battery and grand theft auto.
He received two life sentences and another five years with no possibility of parole, according to court records.
Helen Van Orden was found dead May 2 inside her apartment in Burgundy I, a 55-and-older community at 46th Avenue Terrace West.
Her son, Charles Van Orden, who communicated with her daily, went to her apartment to check on her that Friday after not having spoken to her and discovered his mother’s body with a pool of blood behind her head.
A few days after his mother’s death, Charles Van orden told the Herald he believed his mother was killed for her credit cards, purse and 2000 silver Dodge Strata.
According to the arrest report, Van Orden was found in the living room with marks on her consistent with a tennis shoe.
The report also indicated Matthews told three people he killed Van Orden and two of the three gave authorities sworn statements.
While the plea deal was pending, Van Orden’s daughter, Mary Ann Layhew, spoke to the Herald about how she felt. “He is going to have to sit in a cell for the rest of his miserable life and think about what he did to my mother,” Layhew said. “Although I don’t think he deserves to live, maybe it’s a better punishment for him to have to always remember my mother.”
She called her mother’s death a senseless act.
Layhew said Matthews knew her mother through one of her family members.
Van Orden’s death was described by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dave Bristow as a “burglary gone horribly bad.”