Opening statements given in Mateu murder trial

Posted: Friday, April 04, 2003

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have presented strikingly different portrayals of the relationship between Jose "Che" Mateu and his father, Jose R. Mateu, the man he is accused of killing.

Mateu, 20, is on trial for third time in connection with the January 2000 shooting death of his father inside their Ketchikan home. Mateu, whose two previous trials in Ketchikan ended in hung juries, is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence.

The trial, being held in Juneau Superior Court, began late Wednesday morning.

During opening statements, District Attorney Richard Svobodny described the senior Mateu as an active member of the Ketchikan community who was sometimes violent toward his son. Che Mateu, said Svobodny, was a hormonal teenager whose declining relationship with his father and breakup with his longtime girlfriend turned him into a ticking time bomb.

Mateu was alone in the house with his father on the night of the murder, Svobodny said. The victim made spaghetti for his son, "not knowing that in a short time his son would be sneaking up behind him" and shooting him in the head, Svobodny said.

Che Mateu left a trail of evidence, including a spent bullet casing in his bedroom and footprints that led to an area where police said a rifle was thrown into the ocean, according to Svobodny. He said the rifle was recovered and bullets in the weapon matched bullets kept in the Mateu home.

Assistant Public Defender Valerie Leonard said Che Mateu might have had minor disagreements with his father, but the relationship between the two was loving and caring. Che Mateu exaggerated problems with his father to gain the sympathy of his ex-girlfriend, she said.

Alaska State Troopers botched the murder investigation, moving and destroying crime scene evidence and failing to consider any suspects other than Che Mateu, Leonard said. Another likely suspect had motive and opportunity to kill Jose Mateu, but was never considered by troopers, Leonard said.

Troopers never found evidence specifically tying him to his father's murder, Leonard said.

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