Prosecutor calls Mathews' move to maximum security 'good, but no victory'
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Northwest Correctional Complex may have been a maximum security facility when it opened in Tiptonville more than 31 years ago.
Jesse Ray Mathews joined more than 2300 inmates in medium security when
the Tennessee Department of Corrections classified his threat risk, after he
began serving his sentence for killing Chattanooga Police Sgt. Timothy
Chapin during a shootout after a pawn shop robbery.
security means moderately supervised; Mathews would have been free to
take classes or vocational training, despite his plea deal ensuring
he'd never go free.
"The judgment should have spoken for itself," says Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney General Neal Pinkston.
"Life without parole for murder plus an additional 25 years."
was wearing body armor when he opened fire on Sgt. Chapin and four
other officers who responded to a robbery at US Money Pawn Shop at
5952 Brainerd Road April 2, 2011.
Mathews own wounds put him in intensive care, and later a wheelchair. But prosecutors say he recovered fully by November 2012, when he cut the plea deal that allowed him to dodge the death penalty had he been convicted at trial.
advised Corrections of the court pleading and of the guilty plea,"
Pinkston says. "Had they read media accounts, they would have known of
his escape status in Colorado."
As of Tuesday
afternoon, Corrections Commissioner Derrick Schofield had not
responded, as to whether the classification team at the Morgan County
Correctional Complex in Wartburg was aware that Mathews walked away
from a halfway house in Colorado Springs, shortly after Valentine's Day
2011. He was on parole for a robbery conviction after serving eight
years of a 20-year sentence.
prosecutors assert that Mathews robbed a fast-food restaurant, a
pawn shop and a pharmacy in Colorado Springs in the month prior
Mathews' mother Kathleen, his father Ray, his sister Rachel, and his
sister's boyfriend, James Poteete are serving federal sentences, after
pleading guilty to aiding his fugitive run from Colorado to North
Carolina to Tennessee prior to Sgt. Chapin's murder.
is a nationwide database that they can access his record," Pinkston
says. "They also would have had access to information regarding his
behavior in other institutions."
was classified as 'high risk' and kept in isolation from the moment he
entered the Hamilton County Jail, confirms sheriff's office spokeswoman
Sheriff Jim Hammond denied Channel 3's request for an
interview, or for information regarding Mathews' conduct while an inmate
"You'll have to talk to the DA's office or to Corrections," Atkinson says. "He's no longer our problem."
Pinkston confirms that the stunt Mathews pulled in Hamilton County's
custody, prompted his letter of concern to Corrections Commissioner
Via email to Pinkston Tuesday morning, Schofield confirmed that he'd moved Mathews from Northwest Correctional to the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning, about an hour's drive from Tiptonville.
been moved to a maximum security unit," the email reads, "pending
reclassification based on additional information provide by your
Pinkston wrote that Mathews told Hamilton County correctional officers that
he'd inserted an ice pick into his rectum. That prompted a trip to a
nearby hospital, where a search revealed no ice pick. Nevertheless,
Pinkston wrote, an attempt to arm himself, or to use a hospital trip as
an attempt to escape custody "put the public and law enforcement at
call it (Mathews' transfer to maximum security) a victory," Pinkston
asks. "I wouldn't use that kind of word. But it's good, in relationship
to his past in Colorado and his convictions in Chattanooga."