A seemingly remorseless Richard Matthews received two life sentences plus 250 years in prison from a judge, forgiveness from some relatives of his victims and a severe tongue-lashing from others Friday after he admitted killing two Grady Crawford Construction Co. workers and wounding a third during a 2009 shooting rampage at the Greenwell Springs Road firm.
In all, Matthews, 58, of Slaughter, pleaded guilty before state District Judge Tony Marabella to two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted first-degree murder — pleas that came just three months after the judge found Matthews to be intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for the death penalty that prosecutors were seeking.
“Yeah, I did a crime,” Matthews replied when Marabella asked if he was pleading guilty voluntarily.
Matthews, shackled and wearing an orange and white striped prison jumpsuit, sat next to his court-appointed attorneys as several relatives of Cheryl L. Dixon Boykin, 55, of Denham Springs, and Diana Lynn Tullier, 44, of Walker — the two women he gunned down Dec. 23, 2009 — gave emotional victim impact statements.
Matthews worked for five years as a laborer at Grady Crawford Construction before being fired several months before the deadly incident.
Boykin’s brother, Gary Dixon, glared directly at Matthews and said his sister’s killer has a “deep black hole in your soul” and asked why Matthews didn’t just turn the .357-caliber revolver on himself — rather than take the lives of two innocent people — if he was so hellbent on killing someone.
Dixon also said the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola will “seem like paradise” compared to the hell that awaits Matthews after he dies.
Security was tight inside the courtroom, with no less than seven East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies stationed throughout the room.
Tullier’s daughter, Kelley Tullier, turned to Matthews and said she forgives him for taking her best friend, someone she described as funny and a sweetheart.
“You didn’t just kill two people; you destroyed two families,” she said. “You disgust me.”
“Thank you,” Matthews fired back as he leaned forward in his chair.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III, who spoke with reporters after the guilty plea and sentencing, said of the convicted killer: “Still not a whole lot of remorse from Mr. Matthews.”
Moore said he will never forget the “violent, gruesome murders” or the sound of Christmas music playing in the background at the crime scene.
Asked after court how she is coping, Kelley Tullier said, “Just remembering the good times and trying to build new ones.”
Diana Tullier’s son, Jonathan Tullier, said in a statement read in the courtroom by Kristen Raby, an East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office victim assistance coordinator, that he passes Grady Crawford Construction twice a day and cries more than a grown man ever should.
“You are a coward in my eyes, and I have no pity for you,” he wrote, adding that his mother’s laughter is missed.
Mere moments before Marabella sentenced Matthews, Boykin’s daughter-in-law, April Boykin, caused a hush to fall over the courtroom when she spoke to her mother-in-law’s murderer.
“Look at me Richard Matthews. I want you to look at me Richard Matthews. I want to see your eyes. I forgive you,” she said softly. “I thank you for finally allowing us the closure for our families.”
Matthews was scheduled to stand trial July 20.
Prosecutor Darwin Miller told Marabella that Matthews first shot and wounded a female dispatcher in one building, then went “roaming” through a second building in search of Trey Crawford, a son of the company’s owner. Matthews fatally shot Boykin and Tullier before several employees wrestled him to the ground. One of those workers put his finger between the trigger and the trigger guard to prevent Matthews from firing more bullets, Miller noted, calling that man and the others who subdued Matthews heroes.
The day he was terminated, Matthews told someone at Grady Crawford that they had not heard the last of him, but the remark was not reported to the Sheriff’s Office until Dec. 23, 2009, after the shootings, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux has said.
Miller said Friday the company was never made aware of any imminent threat.
“The business didn’t know,” he stressed to the judge.
Matthews told a deputy after the killings that he did not mean to shoot anyone other than Trey Crawford, who had fired him because of poor work performance. Crawford was not at the site when an armed Matthews arrived.
One of the attempted murder counts to which Matthews pleaded guilty accused him of trying to kill Crawford.
While deputies were escorting Matthews from the Sheriff’s Office the day of the shootings, he told reporters, “I was trying to get my unemployment, but they wouldn’t give me my unemployment.”
As Matthews was escorted from a courtroom in June 2010, he again volunteered, “I feel sorry for the family. I didn’t want to do that. If I would have gotten my unemployment, wouldn’t none of this have happened. I’m willing to give up my life for what I did.”
Miller said Friday that the Louisiana Workforce Commission had denied Matthews some type of unemployment benefits, through no fault of Grady Crawford Construction.
“There was an ongoing appeal by Matthews that was still pending at the time of this catastrophic, unspeakable incident,” the prosecutor added.