Two men should serve short stints in prison for beating a homeless man who was later found dead in Corvallis in 2016, a judge ordered Tuesday.
Roy Eric Edwards, 50, should spend a total of 19 months behind bars, Benton County Circuit Court Judge Locke Williams ordered. Edwards has been in the Benton County Jail since Oct. 25, 2016. He will be transferred to a state prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Andre Ulysses Tucker, 49, should spend a total of 14 months in incarceration, Williams ordered. Tucker has already spent about 13 months in the county jail. He will be taken to a state prison to finish his sentence.
Both sentences were the result of plea agreements worked out by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Edwards and Tucker individually beat the same man in separate incidents over a two-day span in September 2016 because they mistakenly thought he had been masturbating near the camp of Edwards’ girlfriend. The victim, 50-year-old Stephen Eric Mathews, was found dead in a wooded area near the BMX Track Park off Southeast Chapman Place.
Prosecutors originally charged Edwards and Tucker with manslaughter. They were set to go to trial Tuesday, but the trial was canceled after each man entered pleas last week. The manslaughter charge was dismissed in both of their cases and the defendants pleaded to lesser charges.
Tucker entered a guilty plea to attempted second-degree assault, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of five years behind bars. Tucker also pleaded guilty to criminal trespass in a separate case and admitting to violating his probation because he was on probation for a theft case at the time of the assault on Mathews.
Edwards pleaded no contest to third-degree assault for the attack on Mathews. The charge is a felony carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Edwards also entered a guilty plea to fourth-degree assault for punching a man his girlfriend later identified as the man who was masturbating in front of her. Edwards also pleaded guilty to tampering with a witness for inducing a witness in the case to offer false testimony or withhold testimony. Edwards additionally entered a guilty plea to first-degree theft for an unrelated case.
On Tuesday, both defendants appeared in court wearing black-and-white striped jail scrubs. Each was shackled at the wrists and ankles.
Deputy District Attorney Amie Matusko said Mathews was an innocent man who fell victim to “vigilante justice.” She said she believes Tucker and Edwards are guilty of injuring Mathews. She said the prosecution’s evidence shows the defendants’ beatings caused Mathews to suffer a brain bleed, which led to his heart failing. She said Mathews deserves justice.
However, Matusko said the prosecution had trouble gathering witnesses and was concerned about whether witnesses would show up at trial and would be sober.
Edward's attorney, Mike Flinn, said the prosecution simply didn’t have enough evidence to convict the men for manslaughter.
Matusko said Edwards had been sending letters to the district attorney’s office maintaining that he assaulted Mathews but did not kill him. She said she was concerned because there was little remorse displayed in the letters.
But Flinn said his client did not admit remorse because he did not do what the manslaughter charge asserted he did.
Edwards told the judge he does have remorse.
But, “I didn’t kill him,” Edwards maintained. “I know I didn’t.”
Clark Willes, Tucker's attorney, said he had a private investigator look into the case and that contacting witnesses was “like herding cats in a lot of ways.” He said the prosecution would have had difficulty proving the case.
Tucker declined to address Williams prior to the judge announcing his sentence.
Williams said the case was similar to one in which he recently issued a sentence; that case, he noted, also involved vigilante justice. In that case, a man beat a woman with a large wooden dowel outside the Benton County Courthouse because he thought the woman had stolen his cellphone. The woman was injured in the attack. The defendant, Eric Patterson, received a nearly eight-and-a-half-year sentence.
The judge said the difference was that in Patterson’s case, multiple witnesses came forward to testify at his trial.
Williams said the fact that Mathews died “is really not lost on this court.”