In the early morning of June 23, 2004, an elderly woman found a dead man’s body in the yard of her house on Ninigret Avenue in Mashpee.
His pockets had been pulled out, his shoelaces were tied together, and his head had been beaten.
Police investigated. Soon after, they took Louis H. Mathews of Mashpee into custody, charging him with the murder of the man, Scott D. Turner, of Buzzards Bay.
After a five-day trial, a Barnstable Superior Court jury found Mr. Mathews guilty on December 2, 2005, for first-degree murder in a manner of extreme atrocity or cruelty in the death of Scott Turner. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
But Mr. Mathews, who is now 52, and his family say he did not commit the crime. In the 14 years since his conviction, they have continued to argue for his innocence.
Now a possible door is opening in their quest to reverse his conviction. A hearing is scheduled in Barnstable Superior Court on a motion for a new trial. The hearing had been set for Monday, but was postponed for a date yet to be determined because of a change in defense counsel.
New witnesses are coming forward, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ innocence program has recently agreed to look at the case. Further, with a newly hired private investigator, Mr. Mathews’ family feels this could be the beginning of the end.
“We all know that he didn’t do it,” said Lynn R. Raymond, Mr. Mathew’s cousin. “Not only that, there’s no physical evidence that ties him to this crime.”
Mr. Turner’s family members could not be reached for comment on Mr. Mathews’ efforts to reverse his conviction.
When the Cape and Islands District Attorney’ Office was asked for comment, assistant district attorney Tara Miltimore sent a link to the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision affirming Mr. Mathews’ original conviction.
Scott Turner, 43, was over six feet tall, with long blond hair and a beard. He was said to have had a great smile and memorable laugh. Mr. Turner was born in Fall River and had four brothers and two sisters.
His family moved to Buzzards Bay in 1976 and he graduated from Bourne High School in 1979. He worked as a landscaper, a mason and an operator of heavy equipment, and he enjoyed playing the guitar and tinkering with anything that had wheels, according to his obituary.
His brother, Michael S. Turner, described him in court as big-hearted, fun-loving, free-spirited and adventurous.
“He had a kind heart and would have helped anybody,” Michael Turner said in court.
On June 22, 2004, Scott Turner invited Mr. Mathews to his sister’s house on 181 Ninigret Avenue for a cookout. Mr. Turner and Mr. Mathews had met a few weeks prior and became friends. Mr. Mathews helped him find a job as a mason when Mr. Turner was released from Plymouth County House of Correction. He had been serving time for operating under the influence of liquor and several other motor vehicle charges.
Mr. Mathews was born in Falmouth but lived in Mashpee at the time. He and his wife, Shawna M. Mathews, were separated and he bounced from couch to couch. He worked as a stonemason.
Although only 5 feet 8 inches tall, he had a muscular frame and a fast metabolism, his former wife said. He has dark skin and black, curly hair.
Even though they only knew each other for about three weeks, Mr. Mathews and Mr. Turner had become good friends, Ms. Mathews said.
“They hit it off like they knew each other forever,” she said. “They had a lot in common.”
At the cookout in June 2004, the two drank beer and vodka and barbecued throughout the day. Although many people were coming and going all day, by 9:30 PM the party had dwindled.
Scott Turner’s sister, Lynda Turner, and her boyfriend, Wayne Dougherty, were living at the house. They headed to bed around 9:30 PM, and Mr. Mathews and Mr. Turner walked to Dino’s Restaurant and Sports Bar on Route 151, about a 10-minute walk from Ms. Turner’s house .
There, they drank bourbon and beer and seemed to be having a good time, according to the court transcript. Mr. Mathews paid for the tab, and at around midnight, they left Dino’s and walked back to Ms. Turner’s house.
Along the way, they got into a heated discussion. A witness reported seeing a small African-American man and a taller Caucasian man with a ponytail “bickering” along Ninigret Avenue at about 1 AM, according to court transcripts.
Back at the house, Mr. Mathews was “agitated and excited” when they came back, according to a report. He opened the door to Ms. Turner’s room three times and shouted, “I need your help,” and “I’m going to kill your brother,” according to court transcripts.
Around 4 AM, Ms. Turner woke up to use the bathroom and saw Mathews sitting on an ottoman. She asked him where her brother was, and he said that Mr. Turner must have “gotten lucky” and that he left with “two Jamaicans and some girl.”
She woke again at 6 AM and saw Mr. Mathews sitting in a recliner in the living room. He muttered, “Got to go, got to go,” according to the case file.
Mr. Turner’s body was found at 6:40 AM in the backyard of 152 Ninigret Avenue, about six houses down and across the street from Ms. Turner’s house.
A 96-year-old woman at 152 Ninigret Avenue, who came across the body, looked outside at 5 AM and did not see anything unusual. But when she walked outside to get the newspaper around 6 AM, she saw the body as well as her wheelbarrow, which was not there before, according to court transcripts.
A man delivering newspapers between 4 AM and 5 AM did not see the body or anything unusual, according to the court transcript.
A police officer who responded that morning to the murder scene observed that Mr. Turner had suffered facial and head trauma. Blood spatter evidence suggested that he was struck with a club-like instrument multiple times.
Bloodstains indicated that he had been dragged from an area around 181 Ninigret Avenue, the house where Ms. Turner lived. His pockets were turned out, his pants were pulled down and his boots were tied together.
Mr. Turner suffered multiple jaw, nose, temporal bone and lower skull fractures, according to court transcripts. He died of blunt force trauma to the head and face that resulted in brain bruising, swelling and hemorrhaging. The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy estimated that Mr. Turner suffered at least 10 blows to the head and face.
Eight days later, a 30-inch branch was found in the woods near 181 Ninigret Avenue with dried blood and hair on it. DNA testing revealed that the blood matched Mr. Turner’s. The medical examiner also found alcohol and cocaine in the victim’s toxicology report.
On the morning that Mr. Turner’s body was discovered, Mr. Mathews asked for a ride from Ms. Turner’s boss, who had come to pick her up for work at about 7 AM. Ms. Turner and her boss noticed he had dried blood on his face, which appeared to have dripped from an open scab on the bridge of his nose, according to a case file.
As they drove by the crime scene as it was being processed a few houses down, Mr. Mathews shielded his face after taking a quick look at the scene, according to an officer at the scene who noticed his behavior and jotted down the vehicle’s registration.
While in the car, Mr. Mathews said, “my back is killing me,” according to witness testimony in the court transcripts.
Mr. Mathews was dropped off at his wife’s house in Mashpee Village. He sat in the living room and fell asleep, according to a testimony from his wife’s roommate. Later he went into the bathroom and began to rinse the shorts he was wearing in the bathtub. His wife’s roommate noted that he seemed tired.
Mr. Mathews told her he did not feel good and that he wanted to go to the hospital, according to the roommate’s testimony. He said his chest hurt, and he thought he had a lung infection.
Mr. Dougherty, Ms. Turner’s boyfriend, was on his way to work when he noticed the crime scene and identified the body as Mr. Turner. Mr. Dougherty was wearing a white T-shirt that had two small red spots on it, and the police asked if they could have the shirt for testing, to which he complied. That blood was later identified to match the DNA under Scott Turner’s fingernails.
Later that same morning, Mr. Mathews was taken into custody in the Mashpee Police Department on unrelated charges from more than a year before. On July 7, 2003, a case was filed in Edgartown District Court. Mr. Mathews was charged with operating under the influence of liquor and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, according to a warrant report obtained from Falmouth District Court.
Mr. Mathews would admit to hanging out with the wrong crowd, Ms. Raymond, his cousin, said. He was not in a good place at the time of the murder.
Mr. Mathews was on a downward spiral, Ms. Mathews, his former wife, said. He drank a lot, sometimes a case of beer a day, and joked that his two best friends were “Bud” and “Jack,” she said.
But Ms. Mathews does not doubt her husband’s innocence, even if he was intoxicated at the time and was suffering from alcoholism.
“I’ve seen him drunk on more than a couple of occasions,” Ms. Mathews said, “and there’s no way.”
Bringing him in on a warrant for the OUI offense in Edgartown, Mashpee Police officers confiscated Mr. Mathews’ sneakers and chained him to a bunk in the station for about 45 minutes.
“That’s when I knew something pretty serious was going on,” Mr. Mathews said in a phone interview. “Nobody gets handcuffed to a bunk.”
While Mr. Mathews was in custody on the OUI warrant, Massachusetts State Police Trooper Richard Cosgrove and Mashpee Police Detective Robert R. Waterfield questioned him about the homicide. Mr. Mathews agreed to speak with the investigators.
He told them that he and Mr. Scott left the bar separately. He said he returned to Ninigret Avenue at about 11:30 PM, and he fell asleep watching television. He also said that Mr. Turner came back to the house later and asked him for money, which Mr. Mathews refused to give. Mr. Turner became angry and shoved him in the back, he said.
He said that Mr. Turner then left as a passenger in an automobile and said it might have been with a “girl from Dino’s,” according to court transcripts. He had made no mention of any “Jamaicans” during the interview. Mr. Mathews admitted to the investigators that he yelled to Ms. Turner about wanting to kill her brother.
Witnesses saw Mr. Mathews and Mr. Turner leave the bar together, which contradicted Mr. Mathews’ statement that he left separately, the prosecutor argued at trial.
Detective Cosgrove saw tire marks in the driveway, according to court transcripts. But Ms. Turner, Scott’s sister, did not hear a car pull up in the middle of the night.
During the interview at the police department, Mr. Mathews at first said he had not showered and then said he got in the shower with his clothes on. He also mentioned in the interview that he might have wrestled with Mr. Turner.
Detective Waterfield testified that they told Mr. Mathews that they knew something had happened between Mr. Mathews and Mr. Turner the night before and that Mr. Mathews responded by invoking his right to silence, saying he needed to talk to a lawyer.
Trooper Cosgrove and Detective Waterfield concluded that Mathews was the last person to be seen with the victim, making him the prime suspect.
Mr. Waterfield, who has since retired, said in a phone interview that there seemed to be enough physical evidence to tie Mr. Mathews and Mr. Turner together. The fact that they were both intoxicated and that they knew each other and were seen drinking together at the bar was enough to tie the two, he said.
Because the case is still active, Trooper Cosgrove could not comment for the article.
Investigators also found the presence of trace amounts of blood in many places where Mr. Mathews sat, such as the recliner and the ottoman in Ms. Turner’s house as well as the floor of her boss’s truck. The bathtub, shower curtain and bathroom carpet at his wife’s house on 28 Wampanoag Drive also tested positive for trace amounts of blood, as well as the shorts that he had been wearing. A swab of his right hand also tested positive for the presence of blood.
Police charged Mr. Mathews with Mr. Turner’s murder.
About 17 months later, Mr. Mathews was found guilty on December 2, 2005 after a five-day jury trial for first degree murder in a manner of extreme atrocity or cruelty. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Ever since his conviction, he and his family have continued to fight for his innocence. Ms. Raymond, Mr. Mathews’ cousin, has taken on researching his case. She also created a website called “Justice for Louis Mathews” to draw attention to her cousin’s story.
Ms. Mathews, Mr. Mathews’ former wife, started the Facebook Group, “In Prison and Innocent!,” a support group for other people whose family members are believed to be incarcerated unjustly.
Mr. Mathews sent her the divorce papers when he was first convicted, telling her to move on with her life. But they plan on being together again when, or if, he is freed, she said, and she still calls herself his wife.
After years of research, Mr. Mathews and his family do not believe enough evidence ties him to the crime, and they have unanswered questions. And as Mr. Mathews is African American, his family believes race also played a role in his conviction.
In the trial, according to the court transcript, the prosecution used inconclusive DNA tests against Mr. Mathews, meaning that there was not enough DNA information to determine if the defendant’s or the victim’s profiles could be included or excluded.
Blood samples taken from Mr. Mathews’ shorts were inconclusive when compared to Scott’s DNA. Swabs taken from Mr. Mathews’ hands, fingers and fingernails revealed a mixture of DNA from at least two sources, with Mr. Mathews himself being the main contributor. The second source did not contain enough DNA to make a conclusion, so it could not be determined whether the DNA profile matched Scott Turner.
Likewise, swabs taken from Mr. Turner’s fingernails showed a mixture of DNA from at least three people, the major source being Mr. Turner himself. The two other profiles in the mixture were inconclusive to Mr. Mathews.
According to the Supreme Judicial Court, however, the prosecution is allowed to submit inconclusive test results when the defendant calls into question the adequacy of the police investigation.
The DNA chemist stated in a testimony that 21 out of 34 items collected from the investigation were tested, and that the results of those tested were inconclusive. The other seven items were not tested.
Mr. Mathews’ attorney argued that the blood evidence not introduced could have been exculpatory and could have exonerated the defendant, according to court transcripts, as well as the defendant’s summary of their oral argument.
Defense has also argued that the blood that was present on Mr. Mathews and on the areas he sat was his own blood.
The weekend before Mr. Turner was killed, Mr. Mathews fell into a fire pit and got a gash across the bridge of his nose. Witnesses noticed dried blood on his face that appeared to come from a reopened scab on his nose.
Although his blood was found on the places he sat and in his wife’s bathroom, it was not found on Mr. Turner or at the scene of the murder, Mathews’ defense counsel argued.
Some of the samples taken from Ms. Mathews’ bathroom excluded Mr. Turner’s DNA, according to the DNA report, which was not brought up at the trial.
Defense has also submitted motions requesting information to the whereabouts of pieces of evidence, such as a T-shirt that was found at the murder scene but has been misplaced and was never tested, Ms. Raymond said.
When Mr. Mathews first appealed his case, an incorrect transcript was sent to the Supreme Judicial Court. The court reporter mistyped the DNA results and wrote “inclusive” instead of “inconclusive.” Before it could be fixed, the Supreme Judicial Court denied Mr. Mathews’ motion for a new trial and affirmed his original conviction, Ms. Raymond said.
The crime log on Massachusetts’ Courts site shows that court transcripts were sent to the Supreme Judicial Court on March 24, 2006. By October 2006, his appeal was denied. Defense requested audio recordings to be sent on May 29, 2008, and updated trial transcripts were sent to the Supreme Judicial Court on June 26, 2008.
During the trial, Mr. Mathews’ attorney argued that Mr. Mathews was immediately targeted as the prime suspect. For instance, the bathroom in Ms. Turner’s house was not swabbed or tested for evidence, while Ms. Mathews’ bathroom on Wampanoag Drive was tested.
“There was so many bits of evidence and pieces, none of which connect him,” said Drew Segadelli, Mr. Mathews’ lawyer, during closing statements. “Scott Turner didn’t die at this man’s hands, and there is no evidence that says he does; and that he did.”
Defense argued Mr. Mathews had no reason to kill Mr. Turner.
Witnesses testified that Mr. Mathews and Mr. Turner became good friends. Mr. Mathews and Mr. Turner met through his sister Lynda Turner, who was dating Mr. Mathews off and on again. Mr. Mathews helped Mr. Turner find a job after Mr. Turner got out of jail, and they spent a lot of time together.
During the trial, the defense made several arguments proposing other possible suspects and argued that the testimony of some witnesses was not credible.
Ms. Turner’s statement pins Mr. Mathews in her house at 4 AM, although the body was not found until after 6 AM, and two witnesses reported not seeing the body between 4 and 5 AM.
In the closing statement at trial, defense counsel suggested that Ms. Turner and Mr. Dougherty may have concealed evidence the morning the body was discovered only to later rediscover that evidence.
“Either the police investigation is woeful,” Mr. Segadelli said in his closing statement, “or something’s going on with Wayne and Lynda.”
Counsel also stated that the Commonwealth’s case relied almost entirely on circumstantial evidence shaped largely by two people who may have been involved in the murder.
After the body was discovered, investigators searched the area and used canines to find any evidence. But the murder weapon was not located.
Not until eight days later was the murder weapon found, when Lynda Turner and Wayne Dougherty told the investigators that they found additional blood evidence in their home. When the investigators arrived, they found the branch used as the murder weapon in bushes only 50 feet from the house.
Ms. Turner and Mr. Dougherty also called police two weeks after the murder and said they discovered a black button-down shirt stuffed into a La-Z-boy recliner where Mr. Mathews had been sitting the morning the body was discovered. On the morning of the murder, however, investigators had searched the recliner and did not find the shirt.
Ms. Turner said that the shirt was in Mr. Turner’s possession the night of the murder.
Defense counsel for Mr. Mathews further stressed that Mr. Dougherty’s T-shirt, which he was wearing when he identified the body of Mr. Turner, had two small blood splotches, one of which was a potential contributor to the DNA found under Mr. Turner’s fingernails. Defense also argued that they were not made aware that the T-shirt was subjected to DNA analysis and that results were obtained.
In July 2018, however, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, in response to the defendant’s summary of argument on the motion for a new trial, said that the commonwealth informed the defendant that it was seeking additional testing prior to the trial.
“There is nothing of substance raised in the defendant’s motion for a new trial,” Mr. O’Keefe wrote. “A majority of the claims have been previously addressed.”
Although the defense raised awareness of two witnesses’ connections at the original trial, another suspect is possible—but it was never discussed in the original trial.
Defense brought it up in a summary of defendant’s oral argument in July 2018.
Thirty-nine days after Mr. Turner died, another murder occurred.
The body of a woman named Lisa Ann Brundage was found at a temporary campsite off Martin Road in Falmouth, near the Mashpee town line. According to the state medical examiner’s office, Ms. Brundage died of blunt force trauma, the same cause of death of Mr. Turner.
Thomas K. Winner, her boyfriend, went into the Mashpee Police Department and told officers that he might have killed his girlfriend. He was charged with voluntary manslaughter in the beating death of his girlfriend and sentenced to 15 to 18 years in Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction in 2006.
Mr. Winner had four previous charges of assault and battery in 1998 and 2000.
Ms. Brundage, the woman whose body was found off Martin Road, was dating both Mr. Turner, the victim of the Ninigret murder, and Mr. Winner at the same time.
At the time of his death, Mr. Turner was wearing a ring that Ms. Brundage had given him.
But information about the affair was not presented at the murder trial of Mr. Mathews, as Mr. Winner invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
In June of 2004, Mr. Winner and Ms. Brundage were living next door to 181 Ninigret Avenue, where Lynda Turner lived.
After he learned that Mr. Turner and Ms. Brundage were having an affair, Mr. Winner allegedly told Lynda Turner and other witnesses that he would kill both of them, according to the 2018 summary of defendant’s oral argument.
Another witness at the Mathews murder trial, William J. Bonito, also invoked his Fifth Amendment at the trial.
Mr. Bonito worked with Mr. Winner and Mr. Dougherty, and he was over at Ms. Turner’s house the day of the cookout in June 2004. Scott Turner kicked him out of the house the night before his death, according to court transcripts.
Although he was questioned by police as part of the initial investigation, DNA evidence did not connect Mr. Bonito to the crime. Mr. Bonito died in 2012.
During Mr. Mathews’ trial, no witnesses who could identify third party culpability were brought to the stand, Ms. Raymond said.
Although no physical evidence ties Mr. Mathews to the crime, Ms. Raymond often asks herself a simpler question: What would she do if she had committed the crime?
“If you were going to kill a man who you were with all night, are you going to walk down the street and hang out at his sister’s house for the rest of the night?” she asked.
“If you’re going to murder a man, you’re taking off,” she said. “You’re not going to stick around and catch a ride with his sister in the morning. That is not how it works. And if you do, you’re going to be covered in blood, in the victim’s blood.”
Mr. Mathews and his family have reached out to the New England Innocence Project. Since its creation in 2000, New England Innocence Project has helped exonerate 70 people, according to its website.
But the organization said it could not take Mr. Mathews’ case because his case is with the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Ms. Raymond said.
The Committee for Public Counsel Services is the state’s public defender agency and provides defense for those who cannot afford an attorney.
But Ms. Raymond recently found out that the Committee for Public Counsel Services has its own innocence program, and she reached out.
That program has just started looking into Mr. Mathews’ case. Because of complications related to a delay in securing necessary documents, the innocence program has not yet officially taken on the case.
“We all think that we’re going to get our fair shake when we go before a court,” Ms. Raymond said. “You think that the justice system works until you’re in the situation. And that’s what he thought, ‘I’m not guilty of this, so they’re going to see that I’m not guilty, and I’m not going to get convicted.’ That’s what he thought.”
Ms. Raymond has no doubt that race played a factor in his sentencing.
The jury on Mr. Mathews’ trial was all white. However, when told at the beginning of the trial that the defendant is a black Cape Verdean and the victim was white, all jury members said it would not affect their impartiality, according to court transcripts.
“Having an all-white jury in it of itself is not illegal, but it certainly raises some questions about the process of how jurors were selected,” said Rahsaan D. Hall, the director of the Racial Justice Program for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. “I can say that without a doubt, having an all-white jury increases the likelihood that defendants of color, particularly black defendants, will be convicted.”
Mr. Hall helped develop the ACLU of Massachusetts’ integrated advocacy approach to address racial justice issues. Before he was with the ACLU, he was the deputy director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, and he served as the assistant district attorney for Suffolk County, where he prosecuted drug, gang and homicide cases.
He has become aware of plenty of cases in which people claim their innocence, maintain it, and later have been exonerated.
“There’s been an increase in the number of people being exonerated,” Mr. Hall said. “And because people of color, and black people in particular, are overrepresented in the system, it’s going to follow that they’re going to see larger numbers of people of color who are exonerated.”
The disparity between race and the justice system is well known. Innocent African Americans are about seven times more likely than innocent whites to be convicted of murder, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, and African-American prisoners who are convicted of murder are about 50 percent more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers.
Of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the National Registry of Exonerations, 47 percent are African Americans, according to statistics as of October 2016.
Since 1989, Massachusetts has seen 69 exonerations, with 39 percent of them relating to murder. Of those exonerated in Massachusetts, 35 percent were black and 49 percent were white, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.
Racial disparity in the incarceration system has been ingrained in our history, Mr. Hall said, from slavery through Reconstruction to Jim Crow laws to the current mass incarceration of African Americans.
When a crime is committed, it is easier to believe that the suspect is black or a person of color, especially when the story fits into a narrative that already exists about black people and criminality, Mr. Hall said.
“The way that racism operates in society, it’s not about...people using the N-word,” Mr. Hall said. “It’s about having a belief, whether it’s inherent, expressed or implicit, a belief in the values of certain lives over others, beliefs of certain cultures over others, beliefs in the criminality of certain bodies over others.”
“The larger conversation is, what is the value of a black life?” Mr. Hall asked. “When you look at the city of Boston and the homicide clearance rate, there are gross disparities in the number of homicides that are solved for white victims versus homicides of black victims.”
Ms. Mathews said she feels like “the beginning of the end” has come, and the Mathews family is staying positive as new developments rise.
With a recently hired private investigator and new witnesses coming forward, Ms. Raymond said the case is finally moving along. Mr. Mathews is also in the process of requesting potential pieces of evidence, such as photographs taken of footprints near the crime scene before casting was poured into them, and he also filed an interlocutory appeal, an appeal of a ruling by a trial court that is made before the trial itself has concluded..
Ms. Raymond hopes that at the upcoming hearing, the court will make an objective decision based on the withholding of evidence and the suppressing of statements made to the police by potential witnesses.
“My hope is that the errors of law will be recognized, that the court will see they have a truly, 100 percent innocent man serving a life sentence,” Ms. Raymond said.
Mr. Mathews, however, is no longer in as much of a hurry to get out of prison, Ms. Mathews said. Ever since his mother died in June and he was not able to see her, Mr. Mathews is not rushing his case.
“If he has to live there the rest of his life, he is OK with it,” Ms. Mathews said. “He is very optimistic. I know he has days where he feels defeated.”
He spends his time in the library researching his case and plays softball and billiards. Mr. Mathews also became a baptized Jehovah’s Witness and takes bible studies. He started learning Spanish to minister to Spanish speakers. Louie also is writing a book about his story, which will be titled ‘My Mid Life Sentence,’” said Ms. Mathews.
She said that Mr. Mathews has accepted the fact that he is in prison. At first, he was angry, she said.
“Every day that goes by is a day he doesn’t have with his kids and grandkids,” Ms. Mathews said. “He’s upset about that. It motivates him to keep going.”