Washington, DC – A 71-year-old woman was murdered in her own home by a man who had been terrorizing her for more than 20 years after he was released from prison early due to the pandemic.
Sylvia Matthews first met now-66-year-old Michael Garrett in 1998 when he was incarcerated at the former Lorton Correctional Complex where she worked in the prison pharmacy, WUSA reported.
Court documents showed that when Garrett was released from prison in 1999, he broke into Matthews’ home and assaulted her.
Matthews was able to escape to a neighbor’s home and Garrett was arrested and charged, WRC reported.
Garrett was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his attack on Matthews.
In March, DC Superior Court Judge Robert Okun released Garrett two years early under a “compassionate release” because of coronavirus outbreaks in the DC Jail, WUSA reported.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office opposed Garrett’s release but the judge released him anyway.
Shortly after he got out of jail, Garrett began terrorizing Matthews yet again, WUSA reported.
On Oct. 7, DC police arrested Garrett for threatening Matthews at her front door, but prosecutors declined to prosecute the case.
Then police said Garrett beat Matthews outside her home on Oct. 22 and officers arrested him again, WUSA reported.
But prosecutors suspended prosecution.
No reason was given for prosecutors’ decisions not to prosecute Garrett on either occasion, WUSA reported.
The volatile situation came to a head on Dec. 3, when Garrett showed up at Matthews home and began smashing the windows on her SUV parked in the driveway behind the house.
Police said Matthews called 911 at 7:30 a.m. and said Garrett was trying to break into her house, WUSA reported.
Officers responded to her home but Garrett had already left when they arrived.
At 8:44 a.m., Matthews called 911 again and said that she had spotted Garrett outside her home and that she was on the phone with him, WUSA reported.
Officers responded to Matthews’ home and took her phone and told Garrett to leave her alone.
Garrett hung up without speaking to the officers, WUSA reported.
Family members told WRC that Matthews left her house for a few hours at that point and returned at about 11:30 a.m. after she thought the coast was clear.
Relatives said Garrett had broken into Matthews’ house and was waiting to ambush her when she went inside.
“She went into the house and he was in her house,” a relative explained to WRC.
A friend who was outside helping clean up the glass from Garrett’s vandalism to her vehicle earlier in the day heard screaming from inside the house and called 911.
“He said he heard a scuffle and when he heard the scuffle, he called the police,” the relative told WRC.
Police responded to Matthews’ home a few minutes later and found her brutally beaten in the basement of the home.
Garrett was also in the basement, and police took him into custody, WRC reported.
Matthews died at the hospital the next day.
Police initially labeled the attack “domestic in nature,” WRC reported.
Family members said that was not the case, and that Garrett had tormented Matthews for decades.
“Oh my gosh, we’re devastated,” her relative said. “It’s like the system failed us.”
Matthews had even installed a security camera system on the outside of her home to protect her from the threat police said kept coming back, WUSA reported.
“Clearly Mr. Garrett had something about Ms. Matthews that he fixated on. When someone does that, it’s really hard to understand the how and the why and what to do about it because it’s irrational,” Liz Odongo, with DC Coalition against Domestic Violence, said.
DC police detectives were working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to file additional charges against Garrett, WUSA reported.