By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — A 37-year-old man awaits sentencing Nov. 28 after a jury found him guilty Friday of the first degree murder of Taylor Police Cpl. Matthew Edwards last year.
In addition to the charge, which carries a sentence of life without parole. Tyress Mathews was also found guilty of Murder of a Police Officer, also carrying life without parole, Felon in Possession of a Firearm (five years), and Felony Firearm (two years).
Edwards “didn’t have a chance,” one witness said of the 31-year-old cop’s killing.
For more than two weeks, Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Stevens presented testimony and evidence contending that the shooting of Edwards was premeditated, and that Mathews was guilty of the first degree murder of a peace officer, two counts that carry a mandatory life sentence.
The story was told repeatedly in the courtroom of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Ulysses Boykin: Shortly before 6 a.m. on July 23, 2010, Edwards and his partner, Cpl. Gregory Piche, responded to a domestic disturbance call form the Coppertree apartment complex in the 1200 block of Pine.
Neighbors testified that Mathews was arguing with his estranged wife, sights and sounds familiar to the apartment complex residents. When Edwards and Piche arrived at the scene, Mathews was in the parking lot, claiming he was just trying to get his keys so he could be on his way. Piche went to speak with the woman while Edwards waited with Mathews.
What happened next was illustrated through eyewitnesses, including Piche and five apartment complex residents, whom Stevens called “heroes.” Each told a story of the gunfight that morning, how Mathews reached into a book bag, withdrew a Glock pistol (determined to have once been the property of the Detroit Police Department), and shot Edwards, first in the head and a total of six times.
Piche exchanged gunfire with Mathews, finally disabling him. Mathews was injured and lying on the pavement when additional Taylor Police officers arrived and took him into custody.
Throughout the trial, witnesses and investigators described the gunfight and evidence collected, including dozens of shell casings. Defense attorney Todd Perkins made several last-minute attempts at reducing the charges, claiming that premeditated murder had not been proven.
Only one of the witnesses testified to having seen the first shot fired by Mathews, and Perkins questioned the validity of Marcellis Grover’s account.
“We all know Mr. Grover doesn’t like Mr. Mathews,” Perkins said, explaining that the complete story was not told. “It’s that lack of completeness that should cause you to question. It’s not the evidence you saw, it’s the lack of evidence, through which you will find reasonable doubt.”
Stevens disagreed, and began Wednesday’s closing arguments by summarizing the exhaustive amount of evidence that had been shown and witnesses who testified, all painting the same picture.
“Is this an identity question?” Stevens asked. “It ain’t. Identity has never been a problem. Everyone sees (Mathews) there, knows him, and knows he’s up to no good. I.D. is not a question here.”
The trial was emotionally charged throughout, with Taylor police officers in attendance along with friends, supporters and Edwards’ surviving wife.
“The individual who caused us all to be here is sitting right here,” Stevens said. “He is responsible for leaving Corporal Edwards where he was; he took Corporal Edwards before his time.”
Mathews faces life in prison if convicted of premeditated first-degree murder. Additional charges include murder of a peace officer, a felony punishable by life in prison; assault with intent to murder, a felony punishable by life or any terms of years; felon in possession, a five-year felony; felony firearm, a two-year mandatory crime; and as a habitual offender, punishable by life in prison.