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Defendant’s ex-girlfriend testifies in sex-abuse trial

BY OLIVIA MORAN | FEBRUARY 19, 2009 7:44 AM

Wendy Cohen said the heavy, black gun she found with the belongings of Micah Matthews — her daughter’s ex-boyfriend who is on trial this week for allegedly sexually abusing a 50-year-old woman — was horrifying.

Cohen testified on the second day of Matthews’ trial Wednesday, just before the testimony of her 19-year-old daughter — who dated 33-year-old Matthews in 2007, the same year he allegedly committed the crime. Cohen said she knew Matthews as “Mike,” the supposedly 24-year-old man dating her daughter, Nelly Pickar.

Answering questions by Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness and assistant county prosecutor Elizabeth Beglin, Cohen said Matthews stored a suitcase of his belongings in her daughter’s room containing some articles of clothing, paperwork, and what officials eventually identified as a “BB” gun.

Before her discovery, Cohen testified she loaned Matthews money in June 2007 — the month of the alleged assault — because he told her he was stuck in Chicago.

Pickar testified she also occasionally loaned him money, specifically $375 near the time of the incident. She told prosecutors Matthews had no home, stating she shared a hotel room with him about 10 times.

“He didn’t have a place of residence,” she said. “He would go between his aunt and uncle’s house.”
Pickar told prosecutors Matthews owned another gun — a silver one. He allegedly showed her the weapon at the beginning of their relationship in June 2007.

The then 50-year-old sexual-assault victim told police Matthews threatened her with a gun on June 5, 2007, when he forced her to drive to a local ATM and attempt to withdraw money before binding her with cords and raping her in her home. Officials never found the gun.

Investigators said on Wednesday Matthews denied ever stepping foot on the property of his alleged sexual-assault victim.

Michael Halverson, a criminalist with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, however, said DNA from a vaginal swab and a gray phone cord in the woman’s living room did indeed match the DNA of Matthews. In fact, only one of 100 billion people would be expected to have the same DNA profile, he testified.

Iowa City police Officer David Gonzalez, one of the lead investigators of the case, said officials investigated eight individuals before finding a DNA match for Matthews, who was arrested in February 2008 in connection with an unrelated burglary. Gonzalez, along with fellow lead investigator DCI Special Agent Jagat Sandhu, interviewed Matthews for up to an hour and a half.
“He said that he’s never been over there and that he doesn’t know anybody over there,” Gonzalez said.

Matthews’ aunt lives on Shady Glen Court, almost directly across the backyard of the alleged victim’s home, Gonzalez added.

In addition to the vaginal swab and the phone cord, Halverson said he tested things including oral swabs, rectal swabs, head hairs, pubic hairs, water bottles, and a cell phone cord for any sort of DNA from blood, seminal fluid, or skin cells.

The items were gathered from the home of the alleged victim. Gonzalez said her residence that day was in a state of disarray. He testified portions of phone cords were scattered on the floor, there were blood spots on the carpet, and the door seemed forced open.

Matthews’ trial will resume today at 9 a.m. He is charged with first-degree kidnapping, first-degree sexual abuse, first-degree burglary, and second-degree kidnapping.

If convicted, Matthews faces two life sentences.


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