Murder or intoxication manslaughter?
A jury chose to hand down a guilty verdict for murder for Migel Juliana Matthew on Friday in 78th District Court in Wichita Falls, Texas.
The St.Kitts National Matthew, drank a pint of liquor before getting behind the wheel and having a DWI crash that killed 4-year-old Christian Alizha Redmond on Dec. 20, 2019, according to testimony.
She took a curve going over 100 mph, and five children and two adults were thrown from the vehicle in a single-car rollover crash that happened where U.S. Highway 281 curves into Southwest Parkway, according to testimony.
Christian’s brother told jurors on Wednesday that he got up and saw “my baby brother” lying on the ground with a head wound.
The 10-year-old said he still thinks about that sight a lot.
Christian, a prekindergarten student at Booker T. Washington Elementary called “Man Man” by his family, was thrown from the car first and found dead at the scene from blunt force trauma, according to testimony.
During closing arguments Friday morning, Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie urged jurors to convict Matthew of murder, saying her actions in the leadup to Christian’s death fit what is legally demanded for a murder conviction.
The DA seeking a conviction for murder instead of intoxication manslaughter is an unusual courtroom move in a fatal DWI crash.
He told jurors a child deserves the full protection of the law provided by a murder conviction.
“Her actions are why this is murder and not a mere accident,” Gillespie told the jury.
The DA said Matthew was guilty of murder because she killed Christian while committing felony DWI with child passenger and doing things clearly dangerous to human life.
Those clearly dangerous things included driving too fast, going across town instead of just one mile to take the kids home and driving while extremely impaired by alcohol, Gillespie said.
He told the jury Matthew was “blotto” at the time of the crash, and tests later showed a blood-alcohol level well above .15. The legal limit is .08.
The DA played an audiotape of a police interview with Matthew in which she said, “Why am I going to jail? I only had a few shots. . . . I wasn’t (expletive) up.”
If she was so messed up, why would the children’s mother allow her to drive the kids? Matthew told the investigator.
Gillespie said Matthew told police it would take four shots for her to get drunk. The DA said the pint of liquor she consumed has about 10 shots in it.
Defense attorney Jarret Noll asked jurors for a verdict of intoxication manslaughter, which carries a lesser punishment than murder.
“That death was caused by an accidental mistake and an intoxication,” Noll said.
He noted that Christian’s four siblings, his mother and Matthew walked away from the wreck without serious injuries.
“What I think it shows is that this is a car accident that was caused by alcohol,” Noll said.
He said Matthew has shown remorse.
“She knew she made a mistake,” Noll said. “She cared about those kids.”
A jury of six-men and six women deliberated just under an hour before reaching a guilty verdict for murder.
The punishment phase of the trial was expected to resume Friday afternoon and continue through Tuesday. The trial began Monday with jury selection at the Multi-Purpose Events Center.
Matthew, 3, faces five to 99 years or life in prison for murder. Intoxication manslaughter is punishable by two to 20 years in prison.
Christian’s mother, Tyneshia Shantell Chatman, 30, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for her role in her son’s death and was sentenced to 15 years in prison Nov. 30 in 78th District Court.
Chatman also pleaded guilty to four counts of abandoning and endangering a child and is serving two years for each count as part of a plea bargain. The sentences are running concurrently.
During closing arguments Friday, Gillespie reminded jurors they’d seen evidence that the morning before the crash, Matthew bought a bottle of Smirnoff vodka and a pint of Hennessy Cognac at a local liquor store.
Then she and Chatman drank to celebrate the kids reaching a milestone.
Early that afternoon, Matthew drove Chatman and two of her children to the school to pick up Chatman’s other three children, who had enjoyed a Christmas party and were getting out for the break, Gillespie said.
A witness saw Chatman rousing Matthew so they could leave the school, Gillespie said.
Then Matthew sped across town to pick up her own daughter five miles away, Gillespie said.
The kids were unrestrained except for one brother who buckled himself in, Gillespie said. Matthew took a 55 mph curb at over 100 mph and wrecked at about 1:30 p.m. that day.
Chatman and Matthew, also known as Migel Julianna Matthews, were being held in the Wichita County Law Enforcement Center, according to online jail records.
Migel Julianna Matthews is deeply rooted in Cayon, St.Kitts where she attended the Cayon Primary and Cayon High Schools before migrating to the US.