Experts challenge bullet evidence in Mateu trial

Posted: Wednesday, May 02, 2001

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- Lawyers called dueling experts to the stand to testify about bullet evidence presented in the trial of a man charged with murdering his father.

Jose M. Mateu, 18, also known as Che Mateu, is on trial for the Jan. 14, 2000, shooting death of his father, Jose R. Mateu. The trial in Ketchikan Superior Court began more than a week ago.

Charles Peters, an FBI chemist, provided testimony Tuesday about bullet fragments found during the autopsy and those found in the Mateu residence. He said that some of the bullets found in the home had the same chemical composition as fragments found in Jose R. Mateu's body, indicating they came from the same source.

Defense attorney Louis Menendez challenged the FBI analysis and called William Tobin, a former metallurgist with the FBI, and Erik Randick, a metallurgist with a nuclear weapons laboratory in California, to the stand.

Both testified Peters was relying on bad science. Tobin said that metallurgy is needed to correctly analyze the lead composition of bullets. Randich testified that lead refiners have provided him with data that proves each source of lead is neither homogenous nor unique.

Che Mateu is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in his father's death. In his opening statement, District Attorney Steve West said the night Jose R. Mateu was killed the two ate a spaghetti dinner and then the son spent the night at a friend's house.

Alaska State Troopers went to the home the next day and found the body after Jose R. Mateu's co-workers at Ketchikan Dray Heating became concerned when he failed to show for work. West said the father was shot once in the back of the head while sitting in a recliner soon after eating dinner.

West said in his opening statement that the bullet fragments match bullets found in the residence, and those bullets match spent bullet casings found in Che Mateu's bedroom. The murder weapon, a rifle, was found in the ocean near the home, prosecutors said.

Troopers said Che Mateu also had downloaded plans to make a homemade silencer.

Menendez said in his opening statement that the prosecution had made some mistakes and held back evidence.

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