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Man acquitted of 2010 Cape shooting

Friday, September 9, 2011

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Thomas Evans Jr. cracked a smile as Circuit Court Judge Benjamin F. Lewis read the jury's verdict Thursday night.

The Bellwood, Ill., native had been in custody for 14 months after being charged in the June 2010 shooting of 44-year-old Matthew "Woody" Ervin in Cape Girardeau. A 12-person jury found Evans not guilty of second-degree murder and armed criminal action.

"He finally gets to go back home," said his father, Thomas Evans. "It's been a tough year."

The verdict came after more than two hours of deliberation.

Evans' attorney, Daniel Moore, said the case came down to three key witnesses -- Evans and Cape Girardeau Major Case Squad members Donald Perry and Jeremy Weadon. Perry and Weadon interviewed Evans three times a few days after the shooting, and footage and testimonies about those interviews proved Evans' innocence, Moore said.

"All the other witnesses really didn't matter in this case," Moore said. "It's what they did in those interviews that mattered."

Perry and Weadon interviewed Evans for more than eight hours and heard three different stories from the suspect.

In the first interview, footage showed Evans denying any involvement in the shooting, which took place near the intersection of Park Drive and North Fountain Street. The footage's audio cut in and out throughout the interview, leaving jurors and investigators with roughly 45 minutes of audio.

The two other interviews lacked audio.

During the second interview, Perry and Weadon told Evans DNA evidence and fingerprints in Ervin's car placed him at the crime scene. Weadon testified that in the interview Evans said a fourth party came out of the shadows and shot Ervin. Both Perry and Weadon testified that Evans had denied shooting Ervin at least 40 times.

An affidavit filed by authorities in the case alleges that in a third interview with police, Evans said Ervin made threats and appeared to be retrieving a gun from his vehicle, so he fired two shots at him out of self-defense. The shooting allegedly occurred after Evans and a Charleston, Mo., teen, Armster "Bud" Robinson III, met Ervin at a south-side convenience store in Cape Girardeau.

Moore argued that the confession was coerced because Evans was led to believe that he would be set free if he admitted shooting Ervin in self-defense. During his testimony, Weadon said he and Perry had offered scenarios for Evans to confess to, and the self-defense story was among them.

Evans testified that during the third interview, which lasted more than four hours, he had grown tired and was refused a phone call. The officers said that he could only use the phone if he confessed, he testified.

Once he admitted to shooting Ervin in self-defense, Evans wrote an apology letter to Ervin's family because Perry and Weadon suggested it would help his case, Evans testified.

Moore questioned the Perry and Weadon's interviewing methods and provided two still shots from the interview that show Evans in a corner and the two officers speaking to him and Perry poking Evans' head with his finger. Moore said the tactics persuaded Evans to fabricate the story because he was tired and scared.

"These tactics aren't waterboarding, but they are still damaging psychologically," Moore said.

In addition to questioning the interview tactics and the confession, Moore wanted to have Brandon King and Ollie Welch testify. King, who is in prison for assaulting a police officer, submitted a written statement to police July 1, 2010, alleging Welch shot and killed Ervin that night. Welch was subpoenaed but did not appear in court.

Judge Lewis did not allow King to testify in front of a jury because of Chambers v. Mississippi, a Supreme Court Case that prohibits hearsay evidence alleging someone else committed a crime to be submitted.

"He told me he was a murderer," King testified with no jury present.

Evans plans to go home to Illinois and be with his 1-year-old son, Moore said.

"This is something he'll remember forever," Moore said. "I hope he learns and grows from it."



Pertinent address:

North Fountain Street and Park Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

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You've got to be kidding me. This weasel gets out of murder for stupid technicalities. While I'm sure the defense created a good case by injecting doubt into the jurors, how can someone be so dull. The evidence is there! Innocent people don't run and hide like he did. It doesn't make sense that out of over 8 hours of interviewing, and only 45 minutes of audio accompanying video, they can say there was a doubt to it. There is no evidence in this case to support the doubt injected by the defense. He told three different stories. How is that not a factor? What a joke. This man should never be able to leave prison again, but he is undoubtedly home holding his one year-old and thinking he is a god because he just beat the system.

-- Posted by PMA_Ranch on Thu, Sep 8, 2011, at 11:57 PM

Is this what we are suppose to stomach as "justice" for murder? Shame, shame on the shoddy police work... no audio, intimidation, random promises of release? Woody deserved better than this. Time to evaluate our investigators conduct.

-- Posted by Told-U-So on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 6:49 AM

This is what I fear in the Jacque Waller case. This happens far too often. God be with their families.

-- Posted by wifeof1momof4 on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 7:03 AM

Time for a new leader in the prosecutors office

-- Posted by gunn1217 on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 7:03 AM

This man was not released because of a technicality. He was judged by a jury of his peers and found "not guilty of second-degree murder and armed criminal action".

There is no justice system but this one time the legal system worked as designed. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution. Whether from shoddy police work, a lack of evidence, or a combination of the two, a jury of 12 found enough doubt to reject a conviction.

I don't have a clue as to this mans true guilt or innocence, but what took place in the courtroom is not at fault here.

-- Posted by malan on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 8:11 AM

The paper says that he testified that he told the jury that he shot him!!!! He said that he did the shooting but in self defense because he THOUGHT Irvin had a gun?? How is that self defense? What is wrong with people today? The police can not help that the audio malfunctioned. He had blood DNA on his shoe. His key to his apartment was in the car. He had just sold dope to Irvin. His answer for the blood DNA was that it was kool aid. He walked over,stepped in the blood while shooting Irvin AGAIN. And he confessed in the interview room and on the witness stand. Of course he smiled when he just got away with murder.

-- Posted by cartman on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 8:16 AM

He'll be back.

-- Posted by thewonder on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 10:55 AM

Where does it say he told the jury he shot the guy but in self defense? It says he told the officers that but it doesn't say what he told the jurors. The police questioned him three times totaling over 8 hrs. Don't you think someone would have made sure the equipment was working? Their story is as bogus sounding as his.

Do I believe his story now? No. But I don't believe the jurors should have convicted him on half fast evidence either.

-- Posted by malan on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 11:26 AM

I am so sick of these bleeding heart jurors! always giving the rights to the offenders, what was the police supposed to do question a murder suspect with cotton candy and pats on the back, let him keep lying until they released him? did my brother get shown any mercy when he was gunned down and left in the street to die like a dog? they found my brothers blood on this scum bags shoes I was under the impression that when you are present during the time a felony drug sale was conducted and a person was killed all present are just as guilty as the shooter! my families injustice is over lets see how the next family reacts when this upstanding member of society sells their family crack and murders them! he should go home and marry Casey Anthony!

-- Posted by Bigbro on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 11:49 AM

The defendant has rights not because he is an "offender," but because he is a citizen. Hopefully, one will get through this life and never need to exercise his right to presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But should you ever find yourself accused a crime, you will be thankful that you have those rights.

-- Posted by docksider21 on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 12:54 PM

R.I.P. Woody. I have many good memories of our childhood. I wish that there would have been justice in the end. Prayers go out to this wonderful family.

-- Posted by vector0507 on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 1:18 PM

I love and miss my cousin Matt so much. I know he is at peace and in heaven with the Lord. I know one day we will meet again. He was one of the funniest people in the world. He loved to laugh and cut up. He is missed daily. Hopefully the truth will come out someday. Luv and miss you Cuz!!

-- Posted by sunnythebunny on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 1:28 PM

IF he did it, he will face the ULtimate Judge one day-----and he better hope he has Jesus as his attorney; otherwise it's going to get really HOT for that young man.

-- Posted by bluejay_fan_natic20 on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 4:26 PM

Once he admitted to shooting Ervin in self-defense, Evans wrote an apology letter to Ervin's family because Perry and Weadon suggested it would help his case, Evans testified.

If you would try reading the story then I would not have to explain it to you. You must have been on the jury and not paying attention. He testified that he shot Ervin in self defense. The last sentence says that is what Evans TESTIFIED to. He told the jury that he shot him.

I hope his preacher dad can feel good about him self knowing that he paid to get his killer son acquitted knowing that his son had shot and killed a person.

Maybe someone can explain how Ervins DNA could be on his shoes if he did not shoot him. If he was running away while shooting Ervin then how can the blood be on his shoes??

The police kept questioning him because his story kept changing and did not match the evidence like blood instead of kook aid on his shoes!!!! He initially told police that hexwas not even there. Guess they should have just believed him and let him go. As far as the recording, do you really think that they have ANY control over the recordings. Use your brain!! If they could alter the recordings, then a defense attorney would tear them to pieces. They can not help that the recordings malfunctioned. They were a little busy questioning a murderer. They did not have the time to listen to the recording to make sure that what the were being told was actually being recorded. The video and equipment was working so they figured the audio was working.

A murderer is currently on the streets. Bottom line.

-- Posted by cartman on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 8:32 PM

all of you who say this guy committed the crime need to be in the same situation. All I know (and I wasn't there) is that you bloodthirsty Monday morning quarterbacks panting for a guilty verdict were and are wrong...so says a jury of his peers. What is sad is that I have lived long enough to see an idllic place such as Cape Girardeau and Southeast Missouri sink into the mediocrity of big City USA. Crime, offenders,and police torture and violations of the rights of citizens is standard fare in Cape Girardeau too. What a shame!

-- Posted by amenra on Sat, Sep 10, 2011, at 8:37 AM

Sorry cartman, but YOU are the one that needs to re-read the article. Evens testified that he had made the confession during his interview and gives other details of the interview. He did not testify to the jury that he shot anyone. He recanted his original confession.

He was interviewed three different times totaling over 8 hours. How hard would it have been to check the equipment? It's their job to make sure, and not just assume, that everything is done correctly and working correctly.

I agree that the system may have let a guilty person off the hook. But I wasn't there, I didn't see or hear any of the proceedings as you apparently did. All I know is that shoddy police work in any degree puts doubt on the whole thing. I trust that the jurors voted their conscience. JMHO

-- Posted by malan on Sat, Sep 10, 2011, at 10:16 AM

let me put myself in this scared little excuse for a mans shoes for a moment me and a buddy ride with Ervin across town sell him $50.00 worth of crack he drops us off and for some reason reaches in his car for what I think is a gun probably to shoot the both of us for whatever reason so luckily me my buddy or someone who steps out of the shadows happens to have a gun and is faster on the draw than Mr Ervin shoots him in the torso and incredibly is acurate enough in this panic stricken moment to shoot him in the head as well since I was running I have no idea how his blood got on my shoes when confronted by police I wont tell them who shot Mr Ervin in self defense and I did nothing wrong I will deny being there and say the blood on my shoes is kool aid then when these two scary policemen interogate me I will confess to something I didnt do because I am terified of them what differance does it make I can get a change of venue go to someone elses community that hasnt heard all the facts and some bleeding heart jurors will hear shoddy confession audiotapes and that will be reason enough to aquit me...PLEASE! torture me for days and you will never make me confess to something I didnt do but I will tell you what happened and who did it because I'm not taking the rap for someone else shooting Ervin in self defense oh I forgot crack dealers who carry guns dont rat on eachother it's the code! oh well back to Henry street to sell more crack right out in the open..

-- Posted by Bigbro on Sun, Sep 11, 2011, at 10:29 AM

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