Murder, misdeeds add up to 95
years for Matson
Long criminal record nets maximum
sentence in shooting death of Porter businessman Rick
BY BOB KASARDA
VALPARAISO -- The smiles that were on Christopher Matson's face
as he entered the courtroom Wednesday morning were long gone as he walked away
with a maximum sentence of 95 years for the shooting death of Porter businessman
Rick Pinkerton. The ones wearing the smiles at the end of the sentencing
hearing were prosecutors, who had painted Matson as a serious threat to society,
as well as members of Pinkerton's family, who shared the pain of losing their
grandfather, father, brother and son. "In one moment, everything is normal
and with the pull of a trigger, your life is never the same," son Jim Pinkerton
said during an emotional statement before Porter Superior Court Judge Thomas
Webber. "Father's Day is just a few days away and the only gift my sister and
I can give our father now is flowers for his grave," he said. In passing
along the maximum sentence, which is made up of 65 years for the murder charge
and 30 years for his conviction as a habitual offender, Webber said there is no
doubt in his mind Matson is a career criminal in need of correctional treatment
behind bars. Matson will serve a minimum of 47-1/2 years, Webber said, which
means he will be at least 83-1/2 years old before he is eligible for
release. Matson was found guilty last month of gunning down 56-year-old
Pinkerton at his home during what police believe was a botched robbery attempt
over Memorial Day weekend last year. The same jury also determined he was a
habitual offender, which was upheld Wednesday by Webber. Pinkerton was
co-owner of P&P Pinkerton, an oil distribution company in Porter. Matson
maintained his innocence during Wednesday's hearing and made it clear he intends
to appeal his conviction. He requested a replacement for Public Defender Peter
Boyles, who he accused of failing to adequately represent him during his trial.
Boyles was ready to step aside. Matson then turned his criticism toward
police, claiming the investigation was flawed from the beginning. In a hastily
read, yet lengthy statement, he raised questions about evidence used against him
and accused investigators of swaying public opinion in their favor by releasing
his photo and criminal record early on. "We are imperfect beings in an
imperfect world," he said of the legal system, which he also referred to as
draconian. Shots also were leveled at the jury, which Matson accused of
failing to follow instructions. The statement by Matson did not sit well with
Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Todd Shellenbarger, who led the charge on the
murder case. "Matson is a cold-blooded killer," Shellenbarger said following
the hearing. "All he can do is blame other people for his acts. "During the
hearing, Shellenbarger painted Matson as a threat to society. "There is a
very high risk, based on the history record, he will commit additional crimes in
the future if ever permitted to live in society again," he said. He outlined
how Matson has ran afoul of the law since a young age and has committed many
crimes just months after serving time behind bars. Negative reinforcement has
done nothing to curtail his criminal behavior, said Shellenbarger. "That
basic rule of human behavior doesn't apply to Mr. Matson," Shellenbarger said.
"He's utterly unwilling to face reality. "In hopes of illustrating Matson's
continued tendency for violence, Shellenbarger placed Porter County Detective
Commander Mike Veal on the witness stand to testify about the discovery on
October 18 of a hand-fashioned knife and handwritten escape plot in Matson's
solitary jail cell. Boyles countered there was no proof the note was from
Matson's cell or was written by him. As Matson was being led away at the end
of the hearing, wearing orange jail garb and shackles, he turned back to the few
supporters in attendance with a solemn look on his face. Members of
Pinkerton's family took turns thanking Shellenbarger. Among them was son Jim,
who looked relieved about receiving his wish for a maximum sentence. "The
best we could have asked for," he said.
Verdict is returned in less than an
BY SUSAN BROWN and ROBIN BIESEN Times
VALPARAISO -- After less than an hour of deliberation Tuesday,
jurors found Christopher Matson guilty of murder in the shooting death of Porter
businessman Rick Pinkerton. In a second phase of the trial, Matson, 36, will
return this morning for a hearing to determine whether he is a habitual
offender. Matson had been charged as a habitual offender under a separate
indictment. Prosecutors allege he has two prior unrelated felony convictions.
With a third conviction Tuesday, Matson is eligible for habitual offender
status. Between the two charges, Matson faces a maximum 95 years in
prison. Pinkerton, 56, was shot to death during what prosecutors believed to
have been a botched robbery committed by Matson last Memorial Day weekend.
Pinkerton was the co-owner of P&P Pinkerton, an oil distribution company on
U.S. 20 east of Ind. 49. During closing arguments, Porter County Deputy
Prosecutor Todd Shellenbarger told the jury they had abundant evidence to
convict Matson in what the trial established to be a circumstantial
case. "(Matson) is the thread that connects everything in this case,"
Shellenbarger told the jury. He told the jury he would again review for them
how the five key pieces of evidence -- three shell casings, two pizza boxes and
a knife -- were connected to each other and ultimately to Matson. "That will
prove Mr. Matson is a murderer," he said. For seven days, Shellenbarger had
hammered home the point, employing 100 exhibits and 52 witnesses, some of whom
he said destroyed a "fall guy" story fabricated by Matson. All the other
evidence aside, Shellenbarger argued, a handgun and a scanner alone, recovered
from the Arizona residence of Matson's ex-wife, were enough to convict. The
shell casings came from the handgun that belonged to Matson and the scanner
showed motive, he said. "A scanner is a tool of a robber, a burglar, a
thief," he said. There was no other reason for the surgical gloves and the
handcuffs recovered with the gun, he argued. Earlier Tuesday, Paul Fotia,
firearms examiner for the Indiana State Police in Lowell, had tied the three
shell casings found on the front steps of the Pinkerton home to a Colt
.45-caliber semi-automatic pistol belonging to Matson. Fotia said a pattern
of scratch marks on the recovered casings -- which occur naturally when a bullet
is fired and are unique to each gun -- matched those made by the recovered gun
during a test firing in the police lab. Meanwhile, public defenders James
Tsoutsouris and Peter Boyles reminded jurors that in a circumstantial case, it
was their constitutional duty to find the evidence so conclusive it excluded
"any reasonable theory of innocence." Tsoutsouris expressed sympathy to
Pinkerton's family. "No man should be shot in his own house," he said.
"Whoever did this is a cold-blooded killer. "In considering Matson's guilt,
Tsoutsouris asked the jury to "think about what is logical." "What would
motivate a man having pizza and beer in East Chicago to drive to Porter County
to shoot a man?" he said. "Why would he do that and leave all this evidence
behind?" Boyles questioned the dramatic dissimilarity between Matson and the
composites rendered from eyewitness accounts of the shooter. "Who saw the
shooter?" Boyles asked. "Ann Novak." Novak, Pinkerton's longtime girlfriend,
testified she got up from the couch to see who was at the door after it rang
unexpectedly, and that's when she saw the shooter. "The state wants you to
reject her testimony," Boyles said. "Why? Because it's not Mr. Matson. It's not
even close." Boyles hit hard on the fingerprint analysis that linked most of
the prosecution's evidence. As an example, Boyles used a laptop computer covered
with Shellenbarger's fingerprints. "If I take this Powerbook out tonight and
smack it over somebody's head, does that mean Mr. Shellenbarger smacked him in
the head?" Boyles asked the jury. After more than six days of testimony and
evidence by the prosecution, the defense wrapped up its case in less than an
hour Tuesday. Estella Magallanes testified she hired Matson to trim trees and
do yard work at a home in Munster where she worked. She said Matson worked at
the home on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day. On Saturday
evening she noticed a bicycle in the garage that she had not noticed
before. "I assumed it was Chris's," she said. The prosecution had argued
Matson drove to Porter County, parked his car and rode a bicycle to the scene of
the shooting. "That's the last I heard of the bicycle," Tsoutsouris said of
Christopher Matson is
led from the Porter County
Courthouse by Porter County officers after a
appearance. He will remain in jail at least until his
in August. (Gregg Gearhart / The Times)
Charges filed in fatal shootings Fingerprint on pizza box prompts murder charge against Matson
VALPARAISO -- Nobody saw the person who killed local
businessman Rick Pinkerton at his secluded home six weeks ago.
BY KEN KOSKY Times Staff
But a few tiny
pieces of evidence recovered from the murder scene have led prosecutors to file
a murder charge against prime suspect Christopher M. Matson. The 35-year-old
Northwest Indiana man was charged Wednesday and faces up to 65 years in
prison. The key to solving the case, police said, is that the killer
apparently posed as a pizza delivery person to get Pinkerton to answer his door
on the night of May 28. Police believe Matson, who had done landscaping work at
Pinkerton's home, was planning to rob him. But there was a confrontation and
Pinkerton was shot. The killer fled without taking anything, but left behind the
pizza boxes. The boxes, which had the name Martinez on them, were traced to a
Hammond home where pizza had been purchased under that name a few hours earlier.
The person who had ordered the pizzas, an 18-year-old woman, told police Matson
apparently left with the pizza boxes. Laboratory testing showed one of the
pizza boxes contained a fingerprint that matched Matson's left index finger. A
knife left near Pinkerton's home also contained one of Matson's
fingerprints. Police tracked down Matson in Arizona on June 16 and arrested
him on unrelated warrants. His gun was found under his ex-wife's mobile home in
Arizona and ballistics testing conducted by the Indiana State Police showed it
is the murder weapon. Chief Deputy Prosecutor Brian Gensel said the
fingerprints and gun evidence was confirmed recently, allowing authorities to go
forward with the murder charge. "I'm confident we have the shooter in jail,"
said Porter Police Chief Len Smith. The shooting occurred in the town of
Porter's jurisdiction -- Pinkerton's home at U.S. 20 and Ind. 49 -- but Smith
brought in investigators from other departments to help follow the numerous
leads. He credited their work with helping to solve the case. Detective
Commander Mike Veal of the Porter County Sheriff's Office said all the
evidence at this point indicates that Matson acted alone. "That could change,
you never know," Veal added.
Veal said Matson denies being the killer and
said he has knowledge about who did it. "But I feel confident we have the
right person in custody," Veal said. Veal said police still have a few people
who are not suspects to interview, and there are still some lab test results
police are waiting for -- like the testing of the hair found in a ski mask found
near Pinkerton's home. Veal said he spoke with Pinkerton family members about
the murder charge being filed Wednesday "and they are of course relieved."
Pinkerton, 56, was co-owner of P&P Pinkerton oil distribution in
Porter. Matson will be held without bond in Porter County while he awaits
trial. His initial hearing is set for 9 a.m. Friday in front of Porter Superior
Court Judge Thomas Webber. A similar crime landed Matson behind bars from
1983 to 1996. Matson was a juvenile in 1982 when he was involved in a robbery
and a shooting at a home in Hammond. The victim in that case survived being shot
when he answered the door. Matson, who was not the trigger man in that crime,
was still tried as an adult. Gensel said prosecutors don't anticipate seeking
the death penalty in this case. Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds said he's
pleased the investigation resulted in an arrest. "This was a professional
investigation based on a cooperative effort," Reynolds said. "We did
everything within our means to investigate this case in the most expedient and
professional manner possible. This case was a good example of how different
agencies were able to work together, and the results would not have been
achieved without the diligence of the investigators on this case."
Murder suspect appears
Christopher Matson to spend at least two months in jail on probation
violations, giving prosecutors time to consider charges in Pinkerton
BY KEN KOSKY Times Staff
VALPARAISO -- The prime suspect in the murder of Porter
businessman Rick Pinkerton told reporters he's not the killer. Christopher Matson, 35, also was asked by reporters if he knew who was
responsible for the May 28 murder as he was lead into court Wednesday. He
replied, "No, I don't." Matson still hasn't been charged with killing Pinkerton, but he will continue
to be held while police continue their investigation. Porter Superior Court Judge Bob Kennedy on Wednesday ordered Matson to be
held without bond in Porter County Jail until his next court hearing on Aug. 22. On that date, Matson will have to answer charges that he violated his
probation on 1997 charges of felony drunken driving and felony possession of
marijuana. His probation officer is asking that he be sentenced to serve two
years in prison for violating his probation.
During his court hearing on Wednesday, Matson denied violating his probation
and requested that a public defender be assigned to represent him. Public
defender Peter Boyles was assigned to the case. Matson appeared in court wearing orange jail clothing and shackles on his
arms and legs. He was surrounded by at least six uniformed officers at all
According to court documents, Matson is accused of violating his probation in
several different ways:
* Failing to pay $440 in probation user's fees.
* Testing positive for cocaine in June 1999.
* Failing to provide documentation that he completed an Intensive Outpatient
* Possessing a handgun while on probation.
* Consuming alcohol while on probation.
* Leaving the state without permission and then getting arrested in Arizona
on June 16 on charges of vehicle theft, forgery, credit card fraud, theft and
taking the identity of another.
* Committing a theft in Michigan City on Jan. 23, 1999.
* Failing to do the required community service.
* Failing to report to his probation officer.
* Obtaining a fictitious driver's license under the name of Troy Gradow and
assumed his identity. A murder charge is expected to be filed against Matson in connection with the
Pinkerton murder. Pinkerton, 56, the co-owner of P&P Pinkerton oil
distribution, was shot to death at his home about 10 p.m. on May 28. Pinkerton
was shot when he answered the front door, apparently by a person posing as a
pizza delivery person. Nothing was taken.
Matson, who has lived throughout Northwest Indiana, fled to Arizona after the
shooting but was arrested June 16.
Christopher Matson arrived at Porter County Jail early this
Suspect in Pinkerton slaying extradited from
BY KEN KOSKY Times Staff
Porter County police went to Arizona last week to get Christopher Michael
Matson, the prime suspect in the murder of Porter businessman Rick
And on Monday
afternoon, with their mission accomplished, the officers left Arizona with
Matson in their custody.
Porter County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Dave Lain said Matson waived extradition so he
could be flown back to Indiana. Lain said the officers and the suspect were
scheduled to fly into Indianapolis at 9 p.m. Monday and were due at Porter
County Jail by 1 a.m. today.
"They did a
fine job finding him. ... It went fast," said Assistant Porter Police Chief Jim
who has lived throughout Northwest Indiana, was arrested Friday night after
police traced him to a motel room in Prescott, Ariz.
He will be
held on old warrants while police confer with prosecutors about a possible
murder charge against him. Menn said Matson has requested an attorney and is not
answering questions about the crime. Porter County
Prosecutor James Douglas said Monday he has spoken police on hte telephone, but
will need to talk with them in person to discuss charges. Matson could be
charged as early as Tuesday with the murder of Pinkerton, 56, of Porter.
co-owner of P&P Pinkerton oil distribution, was shot to death at his home
about 10 p.m. on May 28. Police said the person who shot Pinkerton parked at his
business and walked to his home. The home and business are located next to each
other near U.S. 20 and Ind. 49. Pinkerton was shot when he answered the front
doorbell, apparently by someone posing as a pizza delivery person. Nothing was
.45-caliber handgun that police believe was used to kill Pinkerton was recovered
in the Arizona home of one of Matson's relatives, police said.
Before he was
arrested in Arizona, police said Matson stole a vehicle and cashed a stolen
check. But the auto theft and check forgery charges in Arizona will be dropped
if Matson is charged with murder in Indiana, said Yavapai, Ariz., County
Sheriff's Lt. Dave Snodgrass.
police received information that there were some robberies in the Las Vegas area
involving someone posing as a pizza delivery man but authorities haven't been
able to confirm that.
Matson is being held on stem from 1997 charges of drunken driving and felony
possession of marijuana in Porter County. He is accused of failing to comply
with court orders in connection with those charges.
Police arrest Pinkerton homicide suspect in Arizona Officers recover the
gun believed used in the crime at home of suspect's
BY JEANETTE LACH Times Staff Writer
PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Local police arrested the prime suspect in the slaying
of Porter businessman Rick Pinkerton late Friday in an Arizona motel
Michael Matson was arrested on unrelated warrants, but police expect to return
to Indiana on Monday to file charges against him in connection with Pinkerton's
death, authorities said Saturday.
sheriff's detectives along with Sheriff Dave Reynolds and Porter Police Chief
Len Smith arrested the 35-year-old landscaper about 9 p.m. Friday local time
without incident at the Colony Inn in Prescott, Ariz., a mountainous area 94
miles northwest of Phoenix.
"I would say
he's definitely the prime suspect at this point," said Officer Tim Emmons,
spokesman for the Porter County Sheriff's Office.
has lived throughout Northwest Indiana, was still in custody in the Yavapai
County Jail in Prescott on Saturday afternoon.
Yavapai County Sheriff's press release describes the slaying as a possible
"contract killing," local authorities were quick to say the investigation is
ongoing and no motive has been established.
however, local investigators believed the shooting was not random, the two knew
each other and that Pinkerton had been targeted. They also believed Matson had
did some landscaping and that was his business ... I believe he may have done
some work for Mr. Pinkerton in the past," Emmons said Saturday.
recovered a .45-caliber handgun at the home of a Matson family member in
It is the
weapon believed used in the Pinkerton homicide.
found the beige Ford Crown Victoria Matson was seen driving in Northwest Indiana
shortly after the slaying, Emmons said.
not reveal other evidence recovered, particularly items found at a Las Vegas
residence Matson might have occupied for a period of time.
has a criminal history, disappeared the night of May 28 when someone walked up
to Pinkerton's home at U.S. 20 and Ind. 49, fired three shots at close range,
hitting the 56-year-old businessman twice before fleeing.
night, the well-known co-owner of P & P Pinkerton Oil Co. in Porter had
celebrated Memorial Day weekend with his family.
But his life
ended when he answered the front doorbell around 10 p.m., leaving behind two
children, a grandson and his girlfriend of eight years.
investigation revealed the shooter might have posed as a Pizza Hut deliveryman
who left behind two empty medium-sized pizza boxes at Pinkerton's door. A
discarded Eastpak backpack containing a red towel with the design of a duck, a
black and silver knife, a handkerchief with a camouflage or cow pattern, a ski
mask and a pair of binoculars were later recovered.
police to Las Vegas where Matson was believed to be employed delivering souvenir
items, said Porter Assistant Police Chief Jim Menn, and to Arizona, where Matson
The FBI and
the Yavapai County Sheriff's police in Arizona joined the search in the early
evening of June 14 when a vehicle matching Matson's was spotted driving
northeast of Prescott.
Matson fled on
foot into a remote desert area when police attempted to stop the vehicle. He
eluded authorities during a search of the area by rangers and Yavapai County
SWAT team members.
resurfaced two days later in possession of a 1993 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck
stolen from Cottonwood, Ariz., when he tried to forge a check at a Wells Fargo
Bank under an assumed name about 4 p.m. Friday.
security video caught his image and deputies identified the suspect as Matson.
They found Matson checked in at a Prescott motel using the vehicle owner's name
with the stolen truck parked just outside the room.
About 9 p.m.,
police arrested Matson at the motel on an outstanding Porter County warrant for
felony possession of marijuana and a drunken driving charge, both from
robbery and shooting incident involving Matson as a juvenile in Hammond in 1982
put him behind bars for 13 years. In that case, the victim was shot when he
answered the door, but Matson did not pull the trigger.
Felon sought in
connection with slaying
Christopher M. Matson,
a convicted robber who
knew Rick Pinkerton, disappeared after the
BY KEN KOSKY Times Staff
PORTER -- Two weeks after local businessman Rick Pinkerton was gunned
down at his home, police may be closer to solving his murder.
police are not officially calling Christopher M. Matson the prime suspect in the
murder, they are pulling out all stops to locate the convicted felon for
a bulletin to all police agencies asking them to find the "armed and dangerous"
Matson and arrest him on warrants unrelated to the murder. Pictures of Matson
also have been released to the media in hopes that someone who knows him will
Mr. Matson may be involved in this case, but we're not releasing details about
what we believe his involvement to be at this time," Porter County police
spokesman Tim Emmons said Friday.
sources told The Times that Matson is the prime suspect in Pinkerton's murder.
Matson, a 35-year-old landscaper who has lived throughout Northwest Indiana,
knew Pinkerton and knew where he lived.
disappeared after May 28, the night the 56-year-old Pinkerton was shot to death
when he answered the door at his home in Porter. Further making police
suspicious is that a similar shooting landed Matson behind bars from about 1982
BY KEN KOSKY Times Staff Writer
Matson was a
juvenile in 1982 when he got involved in a robbery and a shooting at a home in
Hammond. He was tried as an adult and served a 13-year sentence. He was
convicted of committing the crime with others, but was not the one who pulled
the trigger. The victim in that 1982 case, shot when he answered the door at his
lived in Porter and Lake counties since getting out of prison. While living in
Porter County during 1997, he was shot in the buttocks in a drug-related
shooting at his home.
officers investigating the shooting of Matson found a large amount of marijuana
inside Matson's home and he was arrested on a felony possession of marijuana
charge. The same year, he was arrested on a drunken driving charge.
He failed to
comply with court orders in connection with those charges and has been listed as
"wanted." Porter County Crime Stoppers featured him as wanted person of the week
in February, but he wasn't found.
Now, there is
$26,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of
anyone in connection with the Pinkerton murder.
A lot of work
officially naming Matson the prime suspect, police are waiting for an Indiana
State Police lab to analyze the items left behind by Pinkerton's killer to see
if they contain any fingerprints that could be matched to Matson's.
"They have it
on top priority, but we still haven't heard back from the lab yet," said
Assistant Porter Police Chief James Menn, adding he hopes to have an answer by
Police said if
Matson is found anywhere in the U.S., they will seek to have him returned here.
Emmons said it's possible Matson left the area, but police received information
he may still be around.
Menn said that
even though a press conference Friday focused on Matson, he hasn't been charged
with Pinkerton's murder and police are considering other suspects.
Detective Commander Mike Veal said police are looking into the possibility that
whoever shot Pinkerton had an accomplice.
"I think we
can't limit it to one participant in the crime," Veal said.
Police Capt. Mike Jenkins said that if Matson was involved, robbery is a
Until the case
is solved, Emmons is advising people who see a stranger at the door, especially
at night, to consider talking through the door instead of opening it, and to
call police if the visitor appears suspicious. Police believe whoever killed
Pinkerton posed as a pizza delivery person.
past Pinkerton's home at U.S. 20 and Ind. 49 Friday morning may have seen a
return of police activity there.
the Porter County Sheriff's Office searched the pond behind Pinkerton's home
to see if the gun that killed him was thrown there. Metal detectors also were
About a mile
west -- at U.S. 20 and the Little Calumet River -- Indiana Department of Natural
Resources divers searched the water in case the gun was tossed out of the
killer's car. A few more miles to the west, Indiana State Police divers checked
didn't turn up the gun or other evidence, but police said further land and water
searches are possible.
Officer and diver Bob Cauffman, who set up ropes across the Little Calumet so
that every inch could be searched in a grid, said if anything was dumped, it
would have been found.
absolutely the most accurate way to search," Cauffman said.
He said that
after a murder in Merrillville a few years ago, the gun used in the killing was
completely disassembled. Divers found every part of the gun in a river and it
was put back together.
Master Trooper Bill Runyon recalled another case a few years ago in Logansport
where police got a tip that a murder weapon was dropped in the Eel River. It was
found in about 90 minutes. And Ransom said that during the shotgun killings that
plagued Northwest Indiana about a decade ago, the Sheriff's Department acted on
a tip and found a shotgun in Salt Creek. It turned out that gun was not