A man accused of murder in the 2013 death of his girlfriend is scheduled to face a Bowie County jury in March.
Toddrick Eugene Matthews, 40, appeared Friday morning with Longview, Texas, lawyer Bryan Owens for a pretrial hearing before 5th District Judge Bill Miller. Matthews is facing a first-degree murder charge in connection with the Sept. 9, 2013, death of 37-year-old Sonjha Banks.
Matthews was arrested May 25 in Duncanville, Texas, one day after a Bowie County grand jury returned an indictment for murder. At Friday's hearing, Miller scheduled Matthews' case for jury selection March 5 at the Bowie County courthouse in New Boston, Texas. Miller also scheduled a hearing for February to address a motion to suppress evidence collected during a search of Matthews' home the day Banks' body was discovered submerged in a water-filled bathtub in a home on Hobbs Lane in Hooks, Texas.
Matthews called police in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 9, 2013, and reported that he had come home to find his house on fire and Banks in the tub, according to a search warrant affidavit used to create the following account. A Hooks police officer and a Hooks firefighter attempted to perform CPR on Banks but she was later determined by emergency medical personnel to be deceased.
Banks allegedly had a cut on her forehead, swollen eyes and a swollen forehead consistent with blunt force trauma.
A Bowie County Sheriff's Office lieutenant who entered the smoke-filled house to determine if anyone else was inside noticed a chemical smell which might indicate an accelerant was used to start the fire. Investigators also noticed a plastic bottle of isopropyl alcohol lying on the floor inside the front door. A can of "Safe-Heat Chafing Fuel" was lying in the front yard of the house near the street, the affidavit alleges.
Officers obtained a search warrant that granted investigators authority to search the house and "all other buildings, structures, places and vehicles on said premises and within the curtilage."
Owens filed a motion Dec. 11 to suppress all evidence obtained from the search. Owens' motion complains that the search warrant was invalid and conducted without probable cause in violation of the U.S. and Texas Constitutions. The motion does not explain why Owens believes the search warrant wasn't valid. The motion seeks a court order excluding all evidence obtained during the search and any evidence developed later as a result of the search, such as findings of scientific tests.
Owens' suppression motion will be argued in February. Assistant District Attorney Katie Carter is handling the prosecution.