Trial begins in death of Taylor officer

Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR – As presented by assistant prosecutor Robert Stevens, the trial of a man charged with killing Taylor Police Cpl. Matthew Edwards is not a complicated matter.

“It ain’t a whodunnit,” Stevens said during Wedneday’s opening statements before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Ulysses Boykin.

Seated at the defense table, 37-year-old Tyress Thearndos Mathews is charged with murdering Edwards on July 23, 2010. Shortly before 6 a.m., Edwards and his partner, Cpl. Gregory Piche, responded to a breaking-and-entering report at the Coppertree Apartments complex in the 1200 block of Pine.

There, investigators said Edwards and Piche encountered Mathews in the parking lot. There was a brief conversation about Mathews needing to get keys from his estranged wife’s apartment. Piche went to speak with the woman, and it is alleged that Mathews then removed a pistol from a book bag and shot Mathews. The first round was point-blank to the head, “an execution shot” as described by Stevens.

“Mr. Matthews was silly enough to do this in front of the whole complex,” Stevens said. “Witnesses saw him put the firearm to Edwards’ head.”

During last week’s testimony, Stevens presented eyewitnesses who described a parking lot shoot-out in which Mathews was shot six times and Piche exchanged gunfire with the defendant. Stevens said that Mathews was struck “two or three times,” and was on the ground when additional officers — “the entire Taylor Police Department” according to Stevens — arrived on the scene.

Those officers claim that Mathews, bleeding on the pavement, screamed “just f—ing kill me.”

Defense attorney Todd Perkins offered a brief opening statement Wednesday before the prosecution began presenting its case. Perkins said he would present questions for the jury to consider, what he called “circumstances” that challenge the allegations.

“The testimony doesn’t make sense,” Perkins said of the scenario as described by the prosecution. “Someone looking out the window at five in the morning and seeing things you just can’t see? If it doesn’t make sense, the prosecution has failed. The burden of proof is on the prosecution; those are the rules.”

Perkins previewed the prosecution’s questioning of Coppertree resident Marcellis Grover, telling jurors that Grover and Mathews previously had unreported physical encounters and harsh words.

Perkins called the situation “tragic,” leaving “one life gone, another hangs in the balance.” The tragedy was present in the courtroom, with uniformed officers, friends and family wearing memorial badges in Edwards’ honor, and a brief appearance on the stand by Edwards’ surviving wife, Shannon.

Testimony last week presented by the prosecutor included a resident of Coppertree Apartments, a Wayne County Medical Examiner and Taylor Police Cmdr. Mary Sclabasi. After Thursday’s proceedings, the trial adjourned until tomorrow at 9:15 a.m.

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.

(James Mitchell can be reached at