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Jury finds Trevor Matthews guilty of second degree murder of Ronnie Southerland

Published: Sep. 25, 2021 at 4:47 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Jurors in the Trevor Matthews murder trial began deliberations after closing arguments which was about 9:20 p.m. Friday night. Just before midnight, the jury came back with a verdict of guilty of second degree murder against Matthews for the killing of of Ronnie Southerland. The coroner says Southerland was stabbed 78 times in the face and chest. It was November 14, 2019 and Southerland was celebrating his 35th birthday.

The guilty verdict was a relief to Southerland’s father, Ronnie Smith.

“I feel like I done won the lottery right now. It’s been close to two years since this happened and I finally got to the end of this. And I can really wear a smile and mean it,” said Smith.

Matthews took the witness stand in his own defense, against the advice of his attorney. He was on the stand more than four hours. Under cross examination prosecutor and Calcasieu First Assistant D.A., Jacob Johnson, confronted Matthews with contradictions between his testimony and the evidence:

“He kept creating lie after lie after lie, because that’s all he could do. The evidence that law enforcement was able to gather and put together to put him at the scene and prove that he was the killer of this poor victim was truly overwhelming,” said Johnson.

“I’m glad he took the stand because the jury was able to see just how ridiculous his position was,” he said.

Southerland’s father had this to say about Matthews’ testimony.

“He just sat up there and lied, you know, just lied. If he were Pinocchio, his nose would have come out the courtroom.”

Still, a motive never became apparent on why Matthews would stab Southerland 78 times. Some of the wounds were inflicted after he was already dead.

Matthews says he met Southerland on November 14th, 2019 and they talked about dogs. That same day Southerland was murdered.

Matthews testified he had no reason to harm Southerland and did not argue, fight or stab him. Matthews told jurors he’s been waiting two years to get things off his chest.

The coroner’s investigator, Charlie Hunter, told law enforcement the killer would have cuts on his hands from inflicting so many stab wounds.

On the stand, Matthews said cuts on his hands were inflicted on him by a woman he had been egging on about his wanting to have sex with her daughter.

Another issue was a bunch of letters prosecutors say were written by Matthews and sent to a friend with whom he had a romance. The letters were turned over to law enforcement and included comments about his strategy for beating the murder. Matthews denies writing the letters.

Southerland’s father says his son never met a stranger.

“He was very happy person. He never tried to harm nobody,” said Smith.

A conviction of second-degree murder brings automatic life in prison. Still, formal sentencing is set for October 5 before Judge Michael Canady.

The defense attorneys declined to do an on-camera interview last night. But Public Defender King Alexander says their next move is, as yet, undecided.

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