On 21 May 1998, after being arrested in
Chicago, 24-year-old Eric Matthews confessed to killing his stepson, his
wife and another two women.
The stepson, 1 1/2-year-old James, was found
dead in a trash bin in New Orleans. At first he said he dropped the kid
at a hospital, but later admitted strangling the boy in a fit of rage,
then confessed to a couple of rapes and the murders of his wife and two
Matthews' crime spree began the 18th with the killing
of his wife, Lashann Matthews, 20, at their trailer home in
Hammond, Louisiana, about 45 miles northwest of New Orleans.
fled with her two children, Rosalyn and James. James' body was found two
days later in a trash bin behind a church in a New Orleans suburb.
Rosalyn, his stepdaughter, was found with him unharmed at the time of
While being questioned, Matthews also admitted
committing two rapes in Indiana and Louisiana and killing two of his ex-girlfriends
in the early 1990s. Authorities believe those two murders occurred in
the Indianapolis and Michigan areas.
Eric Matthews Plea
This year GRACE played an instrumental
role in the long and hard-fought battle to save the life of Eric
Matthews, a young schizophrenic Louisiana man charged with murdering his
wife and young step-son who awaited trial for over eight years despite
the fact that he had confessed, fully cooperated with officials, and was
willing to plead guilty in exchange for life without parole.
Eric was represented by the Louisiana
Capital Assistance Center, our sister office where Danalynn Recer worked
prior to founding GRACE, and where she remains of counsel. Along with
LCAC Director Neal Walker and mitigation specialist Melanie Carr (now
the Director of A Fighting Chance, or AFC), Danalynn represented Eric
for most of those eight years, during which the elected DA of Tangipahoa
Parish ignored the wishes of the victims' family, ignored overwhelming
evidence of Eric's severe mental illness, ignored Eric's profound
remorse and his willingness to accept responsibility for his actions,
and pressed for a death penalty that no one impacted by the crime
After extraordinary pre-trial litigation,
numerous hearings, and an extensive mitigation investigation conducted
by staff from LCAC, AFC and GRACE, the DA finally relented, and Eric
entered a plea in exchange for a sentence of life without parole on
August 30, 2006.