August 18, 2009
For the dramatic effect, I begin... it was a day like any other day.
I worked - and spent the evening preparing our home for the arrival of Matt, Brit and Taten. I recall sitting in the office after deciding how much of Krieg's belongings should be packed up out of Tate's reach. Matt & Brit were moving into the guest room and some furniture had to be shuffled and both closets cleared. They had been living with her parents, putting money aside in hopes of getting a place of their own. I was excited to have them move in - and yet somewhat frustrated at having to make the changes to my way of living. Very selfish.
We were settled into our bedtime routine after 11pm when the phone rang. It was Britnee. She was crying. She said the sheriff's department was at the door. They wanted Matthew woke up to talk to him about a burglary. We dashed into clothes and drove around the block in time to see OUR SON being walked, barefoot in pajama bottoms and handcuffs, to a squad car. My heart plummeted and jumped out of my chest all at the same time.
I raced from a barely stopped car with Mike yelling at me from inside. I approached the pair of deputies and Matthew. We knew the officers from working in Dispatch. One greeted me personally by my first name - like we'd just run into one another at the mall. Mike caught up and we asked what was going on.
We were told an individual from Star reported his home had been burglarized and the neighbor identified a vehicle believed to be Matt's. They asked to have access to the jeep, as it was our property. We gave consent. Matt was being taken in for questioning.
I kept thinking - this is a horrible nightmare - and I'll wake up at any moment. We were allowed to speak with Matt from the squad car door. He told us he didn't do it. We told him to be honest and but say no more.
They'd brought the witness to town in a squad car. The car was parked across the street from the house when she identified Matthew. It was nearly midnight - and dark. She was able to say for sure she knew it was Matthew she saw at the neighbor's house - while he was standing on the porch in the house light. The next day, when she gave her official statement, she said she saw a tall blond guy walking around the victim's yard. He was wearing a dark tshirt. Matt is 6'4 and had a shaved head but his hair is dark. That day he wore a dark tshirt to work. Britnee never did find a white tshirt in the laundry and it wasn't in the jeep.
As they left, one of the other deputies stopped and gave us a wave and said "good to see you - you all have a nice night!". Oh for sure. You are dragging my son from his bed, handcuffed off to be interrogated for a crime... it's bound to be a great night! I wanted to reach out and choke the life from his eyes.
The story was Matthew was to have broken into Jason's, a former coworker, residence about 7:15 that night. The neighbor was certain it was Matthew jeep - because it had some personalized license plates and a flag (though she couldn't recall the plate what the plate was). Jason claimed he was missing electronics (he couldn't be more specific) and $800.
Jason didn't know exactly where Matthew was living - couldn't give the address but a general area. The jeep is registered in our name at our address. The cops never came here to ask for Matthew, and instead did an area search to locate the jeep and THEN run the plate. Jason was very familiar with the jeep. He'd seen it daily when working with Matt and knew it sat in the work lot unattended every day. He would certainly be able to give a description to someone if he desired. Jason was disgruntled with his employer and was harassing Matthew about work.
Another part of the story. The same witness-neighbor told Matthew, on one of his visits to mow, they were going to lose their truck to bankruptcy. Not long after the accusations and arrest were made, the truck was still around. They were able to keep the truck. Mind you the missing money was never found in Matt's possessions and there were no large, new purchases made.
The timeline was a hard one to swallow.
Matthew dropped his boss off on the southeast end of town at 6:30pm. He then drove the work truck and trailer with a coworker across town, stopping at a Quickmart for Gatorade. His boss' home is located on the north end of Eagle. north of Boise. The burglary was to have taken place in Star, west of Boise, about 10-15 minutes from the boss' home. It's easily a 45 minute drive to go from where Matt dropped off his boss, to the work yard. Nearly impossible to do in traffic - and no way to get again out to Jason's place in 45 minutes.
At the risk of sounding like a mom in denial - it just isn't possible to do.
At the time, Jason had just got out of jail on probation - again - for a parole violation with an original charge for drug sales. He was fired from his job where Matt worked. Jason lived in a small cluttered house (the police photos were so full of stuff I'm not sure how one would determine anything was missing) - which Matthew had visited upon occasion. No surprise they found a finger print on a window sill - Matt painted it. Matthew, ever the tender heart, helping those troubled souls and try to care for strays risking being bit. Matt mowed for Jason when he was incarcerated and helped him with repairs around the house. Matt & Britnee gave Jason furniture when his wife kicked him out and filed for divorce. Matt also tried to be decent to the neighbor who had fallen on hard times. He was aware of Jason's legal problems - thought Jason was trying to make his life better.
Matthew was interviewed by the deputies downtown and continued his claim of innocence. The deputies said they didn't need him to say more as they had enough to hold him and put him into jail. We waited for word and got none. I kept thinking - doesn't he get a phone call? We knew how to call the jail and ask if he had been booked from our years in Dispatch. Otherwise we didn't have a clue. Fortunately we found a patient deputy in the jail who was willing to explain to us Matt was awaiting arraignment and would be charged and put in jail. So much we didn't know or understand. She couldn't get word to Matt about anything for us, but we knew if he learned about the phone system we might get a call. Visiting hours weren't until the weekend. We kept calling the jail the next two days until we learned he'd been arraigned and charged with felony burglary and his bond was $50,000. I was physically ill.
At the point my wonderful sister and husband called to say they would give us $5000 to use - just please get Matthew out of jail. We didn't share our drama with many - but one person I did tell was my supervisor. She had experienced similar difficulties with a family member and gave us great advice. The biggest being - get a lawyer. She explained the Public Defender would get Matt's case as he walked into court and was already overworked and would take a minimal interest in what was going to happen to Matthew. We called around to lawyers in the phone book and found one we felt comfortable with - and agreed to do the job. We told him how much money we had. He took half for the retainer, scolded us for not hiring a lawyer before the arraignment (like we knew) and said our next step was to get a bail reduction at Matt's first hearing - and get him out of jail. This was two weeks away. Progress. Our son would be in jail for two weeks!
Matt was able to call out but we were cut off. After calling the jail we learned there was a toll free number to deposit money and then Matt could call my phone only. We set him up to call me and one more account to call his wife. It broke my heart every time the phone rang and it was the recording from the jail stating an inmate was calling and would I take the call.
We visited Matthew twice in jail. Another experience I'd just as soon forget, but remains a pit in my heart when I think of it. Matthew always tried to smile and make me laugh. He looked so young and naive in the orange jail jumpsuit behind the glass. I looked at some of the other people visiting inmates. I was surprised how many looked normal. Guess I figured everyone would look like degenerates if they had someone in jail. I eavesdropped on a few conversations while waiting my turn with the phone. A lot of bad decisions. So many sad loved ones.
Matthew was learning about jail life quickly and explained the different colored jumpsuits. He didn't do much during the day except read. We quickly found out how to put money in the commissary so he could buy essentials. Right off the top the first $15 went to medical in case he needed treatment, so his $50 didn't go far. He bought a notebook and soft, (jail worthy) bendable pen to draw, Skittles (which turned out to be helpful for adding color to his pictures), toothpaste, soap and deodorant - nearly clearing his balance. We added more money. He learned to buy Hot Pockets to trade for other items. He hoped if he would be in longer he could get reclassified and get a 'job' which would enable him to eat the same food the guards ate. It seemed everything they needed required additional money plus we read each day in jail he would be charged a fee too.
Matt was able to get a long-sleeved shirt to wear under his jumpsuit eventually - which helped with the very cool air conditioned chill - and later someone in their dorm was released or moved and he got a blanket too.
As hard as it was to accept him being there, it was equally difficult to share our story with family. Their response was overwhelmingly supportive, reassuring and heartbreaking all at the same time. We only told a limited number of friends. It was just too difficult to share.
We were able to get his bond lowered at his first court date, which enabled us to add getting bail to our life's experiences. We met a wonderful, sympathetic, very professional young woman who walked us through the process and answered a bazillion more questions. We waited for Matt to return from court on the jail bus and then get processed out - it took hours. Much later that afternoon we brought him home. He looked pale, tired and was very quiet.
The entire ordeal was so frustrating. The 'victims' claim of electronics and money stolen was so vague. The deputies found a CB player and radio (electronics) in the jeep. Originally these items were purchased at a junk yard in Washington state. The CB had been installed in Britnee's old jeep and the radio in one of our old vehicles. They'd been removed and had been sitting in storage until a week prior to all this when Matt took them out to install in the jeep he drove. Matthew had no proof of ownership. No receipts.
Matt's boss wasn't home when they dropped off the work truck and trailer that night because they'd dropped him off across town. He couldn't verify when they arrived to the lot.
The coworker confirmed they'd arrived after 7pm but the witness' statement held a great deal of weight against Matthew's whereabouts. All of the accusations seemed hinky to us. Unfortunately we had no concrete way of proving Matt's innocence. Every thing we tried was a dead end. We were devastated.
We endured several more court dates. More delays. The victim was hiding from the law himself while avoiding jail for not appearing at his own court date. More postponements. Finally in December we went to court again. Prior to our appointed time before the judge, our attorney met with the prosecutor. Matt was offered a plead guilty to misdemeanor trespassing and have one year of unsupervised probation. When his year was over he could file to have the incident removed from his permanent record. If he agreed there wouldn't be an expensive jury trial with Matt needing to prove his innocence. As maddening as it was to say he was guilty of anything, the offer was a blessing. We were afraid of where a jury trial would go. Matt and Brit wanted to move on and end the nightmare.
We shared with one good friend who lives locally and never once asked us how we were doing throughout Matt's time in jail. Not such a good friend after all. We have another who called, texted and emailed daily from the East Coast. She also followed up frequently after Matt was home. Family members were so helpful and caring. I know my former coworkers in Dispatch knew what was going on - it's hard not to when several police units are out on the same address for a call - late on a week night - you check the computer - you read the call - you see the names involved. The car was registered in our names. They knew what was going on. The other indicator - many stopped contacting us via email or Spacebook. Our family was involved in something and we were black listed. I realized then, in Dispatch we saw what started but how often did we hear the outcome.
I was also surprised at the number of people we know who were already well familiar with the legal process and jail. I realized how many years I just assumed only bad parents raised bad kids - and only bad people were put in jail. Gradually I shared with a couple more coworkers and found they knew all too well what I was feeling. All too often it seemed I'd break down in tears in the middle of the day when the fear and anxiety of what might happen to Matthew would get the best of me. It was reassuring to know there was someone there I could reach out to.
It cost us nearly $8000. Money well spent. I will never understand how a drug selling felon's word was able to send our life into a downward spiral. The 'evidence' was removed from our vehicle, as well as Matt's work tools, and have never been returned. It requires the deputy to start the release and a judge to sign off on it. Neither of which we've attempted to do.
We are happy for the resolution. Not pleased with the outcome but blessed with family and friends to help with support and financial aid. Without them I would hate to imagine what might have been. It was a reminder to be grateful for all we've been provided. I'm grateful for my family, my husband and my children. I'm grateful for our good health. Mostly I'm grateful for my son - I'm grateful every time he walks into our home and smiles at me - even when he's pushing my buttons . I'm so grateful he's home with his wife and son - and the rest of us who love him.
One year ago today - I lost faith in our legal justice system. I will never again believe you are 'innocent until proven guilty'.