Prosecutors continue questioning in Ketchikan murder case

Posted: Sunday, April 06, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- Prosecutors tried Friday to establish a timeline to show that Jose M. ''Che'' Mateu murdered his father in Ketchikan three years ago.

Defense attorneys, meanwhile, closely questioned prosecution witnesses who they claim botched the case.

Mateu, 20, is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the January 2000 shooting death of his father, Jose R. Mateu. The trial is his third. Two trials in Ketchikan ended with hung juries.

The defense began the day questioning of Dr. Franc Fallico, acting chief state medical examiner. Assistant Public Defender Julia Moudy challenged Fallico's conclusion that Mateu died shortly after eating dinner because spaghetti found in his stomach was largely undigested.

Fallico said carbohydrates digest quickly and therefore it was fair to conclude that Mateu had eaten recently.

Juneau District Attorney Richard Svobodny called Mary Woodley, Che Mateu's mother and Jose Mateu's ex-wife, who testified that she talked to her son and ex-husband the night troopers say the elder Mateu was shot.

Woodley said she called at about 7:30 p.m. and talked for about 20 minutes. She testified that she did not hear others in the background and said her son told her he and his father were about to eat spaghetti.

Assistant Public Defender Valerie Leonard asked Woodley whether anyone other than Che and Jose Mateu stayed in the Mateu house. Woodley said Jeffrey Jenkinson often slept at the home and was allowed to stay any time he was in town. The defense named Jenkinson, a Ketchikan fisherman, as a possible suspect in opening statements.

A former co-worker of the elder Mateu, Renata ''Ronnie'' Kline, testified that she spoke on the phone with Jose Mateu twice on the night of Jan. 13. Mateu, a furnace technician on call that night, placed the second call at about 9 p.m. and said he was turning off his malfunctioning pager and turning on the phone next to his bed.

When Mateu did not show up for work the next day, co-workers alerted troopers, who discovered the body.

Trooper Lt. Kurt Ludwig testified he arrived at the home about 2 p.m. Jan. 14, knocked, and entered the home.

After walking through most of the first floor, Ludwig said, he entered a utility room and saw a ''human figure'' in a reclining chair. He said there was a large amount of blood and spaghetti on Mateu's shirt.

Ludwig said he first thought Mateu might have regurgitated and died, then that Mateu might have committed suicide. Ludwig used a telephone next to Mateu's body to call the trooper dispatcher, he said, but would not have used the phone if he believed Mateu had been murdered.

Waiting for another trooper to arrive, Ludwig said, he looked for other victims or witnesses in the house. Upstairs, he found an open bedroom door and ''saw what appeared to be a body underneath the blankets.'' He said he also saw hair poking out from the covers.

''I shouted 'state trooper,' I knelt down and I tossed the blankets back,'' Ludwig said. He said he found blankets set up to look like a human body and a doll. At that point, Ludwig said, his adrenaline was ''pretty high.''

Ludwig said he proceeded through the rest of the second floor, finding two more beds that appeared to have people in them. He said he found no other people in the home.

After Trooper A.J. Charlton arrived, the officers searched around Mateu's body for weapon. The officers contacted the state Criminal Investigation Bureau and received permission to more closely examine the body.

They moved Mateu's body off the chair and then could clearly see his head wound, Ludwig said. They looked for a weapon in the cushions of the chair, turned down the temperature in the house to preserve the scene, took pictures and posted a trooper to secure the home.

The trial resumes this week.

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