Could Mathews mother's letters help spare an accused cop killer? - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Could Mathews mother's letters help spare an accused cop killer's life?

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Federal prosecutors have used Kathleen Mathews own words and letters to help send her to prison for more than 30 years for aiding and abetting her son, Jesse Mathews--charged with capital murder in the death of Chattanooga Police Sgt. Timothy Chapin last April.

But those same letters also could aid in Jesse Mathews' defense.

"Is he a follower or is he just someone that's mean," asks attorney Jerry Summers.

Summers isn't Mathews' defense counsel. But he has prosecuted and defended accused killers in a legal career that spans more than three decades.

In Kathleen Mathews' Sentencing Memorandum, prosecutors describe her as a "criminal manipulator" and that her husband and children "take their cues from her."

Further, the Memorandum states that Kathleen Mathews did more than share in the bounty her son reaped from a burglary and robbery spree stretching from Colorado to Tennessee. Rather, prosecutors allege, Jesse Mathews was like a dog bringing his kill to his master for approval."

Jesse Mathews got her approval, the Memorandum states, in jailhouse letters that "continue to praise him as a fine example of manhood."

"I'm sure there will be motions to have psychological treatment and psychological testing done on this man," Summers says.

"We'll hear about his childhood, his school years, his pre-school years. Every aspect of his relationship to his family."

How will those letters come into play?

Federal prosecutors maintain that Kathleen Mathews still was trying to assert control over her brood in a letter to Jesse Mathews November 11.

She chastised federal authorities for charging her, his father Ray, and sister Rachel criminally for helping him after he walked away from his halfway house in Colorado.

Prosecutors, Mathews wrote were "making a big deal out of what should be considered an act of love, not a crime."


In another letter dated January 6, Mathews would praise her son for his "chivalry", adding "I couldn't be more proud of you."

Mathews even holds out hope that he could avoid the death penalty, or even conviction for Sgt. Chaplin's killing, saying he could charm his way out by "getting pretty women on the jury and there will be some not guilty votes."

Mathews also is aware that her letters are playing to a much larger audience besides her son.

"Ha!," she writes. "I bet the people that read your mail think I'm a real nut job."

Is this self-described "loud-mouthed broad" crazy? Crazy like a fox?

Summers wonders whether Mathews letters could be an act of selflessness; shouldering some of the blame for his misdeeds both admitted and alleged.

"She's looking at spending what amounts to be the rest of her life in prison," Summers says.

"Maybe this could be the one halfway decent act she could do to help her son."

Mathews' letters are laced with profanities. Some are directed at the citizens of Chattanooga; even to Sgt. Chapin's family.

She urges her own family to stand firm.

But in her own Sentencing Memoranda, and that of Jesse Mathew's father, Ray, and sister Rachel -- all maintain that prosecutors can't tie them directly to the guns used to kill Sgt. Chapin.

Only Jesse Mathews, the Memoranda maintain, had access to those firearms.

The Mathews claim that their 'collection', as prosecutors put it, was to be kept for the firearms' monetary value, or sold for profit.

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