The United States Attorney’s Office announced that on September 7, 2012, in Great Falls, after a federal district court trial before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, Adrien John Matuck, a 26-year-old resident of Poplar and an enrolled member of the Hualapai Tribe in Arizona, was found guilty of first-degree murder. Sentencing is set for January 7, 2013. He is currently detained.
At trial, the following evidence and testimony was presented to the jury.
During the evening of August 6, 2011, and into the early morning hours of August 7, 2011, in Poplar, Matuck met up with a few other people, including R.B., the victim.
At one party during the night, Matuck, who is a former Marine, grabbed a man around the neck with his hands. Matuck yelled he had killed a bunch of people while in the Marines while he lunged at this man.
Sometime around 4 a.m. on August 7, 2011, Matuck, M.V., L.S., and J.W. went to J.W.’s car. The victim was passed out in the backseat of the car. M.V. told the victim to get up, and, in response, the victim slapped M.V. Matuck became angry and punched the victim.
Due to the commotion, J.W. stopped the car ,and Matuck got out of the passenger seat. L.S., M.V., and the victim also got out of the car. The victim punched Matuck a few times in the face. M.V. walked away from the car and would not come back. Matuck’s nose bled from the punches he received from the victim, and he pulled off his shirt to wipe his face. He pointed his finger at the victim and said, “I’m going to get you.” He further added, “I’m a Marine; I know how to kill.”
J.W., L.S., Matuck, and the victim got back into the car and drove to J.W.’s trailer. L.S. and J.W. fell asleep soon thereafter. The victim sat in a recliner chair and also fell asleep, which left Matuck as the only person awake in the trailer.
Y.H. and her son G.G. live down the alley from J.W.’s trailer house. They heard their dog barking around 7 a.m. Y.H. looked out the window and saw Matuck walking west and cut across their yard. Y.H. told G.G. what she observed. G.G. looked out the window and observed Matuck go to the house next door and pull a piece of a gray shirt from his right pocket. He placed this piece of shirt under a stone rain gutter. Matuck then asked the next-door neighbor for Kool-Aid when she looked outside. Matuck continued to walk through the neighborhood and stopped by another house until he got into a fight and was told to leave sometime around 9 a.m.
Meanwhile, L.S. and J.W. began to wake up in J.W.’s trailer. Matuck was not in the trailer when they both woke up. The victim was still in the recliner and looked like he was passed out. L.S. yelled at the victim to get up. The back door opened and Matuck came inside. J.W. asked Matuck where he had been and Matuck replied, “I don’t know; I was upstairs.” L.S. and J.W. did not know what Matuck meant by that statement because the trailer was only one story. Matuck then lay down on a mattress positioned on the living room floor in front of the recliner where the victim sat. L.S. went over to the victim and grabbed his face. The victim felt cold to L.S.’s touch, and she observed his tongue was sticking slightly out with saliva dripping from his mouth. J.W. checked for a pulse and did not feel anything, and he called 911.
Medical personnel pronounced the victim dead at the scene. Y.H. called the police when she learned Matuck was a suspect in the victim’s death. G.G. recovered the piece of shirt from beneath the rain gutter, and Y.H. placed the evidence in a plastic bag. Investigators observed the piece of gray shirt was actually rolled into the shape of a ligature.
An autopsy revealed the victim died of a ligature strangulation. An instrument was used on the victim’s neck, which was at least a half-inch wide and soft and flexible. It appeared the ligature was tightened from behind and pulled up and to the left of the victim’s head. Petechial hemorrhages about the victim’s eyes and lips indicated pressure was applied to the victim’s neck for a period of at least 30 seconds.
The FBI laboratory analyzed a piece of fabric from the top rear of the recliner where the victim was found. Matuck could not be excluded as a potential minor contributor of DNA to the fabric. The piece of shirt turned over by Y.H. was analyzed, as well. Matuck and the victim could also not be excluded as potential contributors to of DNA to the fabric.
A carpet sample was taken from the floor behind the recliner. Yellow nylon carpet-type fibers that exhibited the same microscopic characteristics and optical properties as the fibers from this sample were found on Matuck’s shirt and shorts collected from him at the jail, as well as on fabric from the top of the recliner. These same fibers were also found on the shirt and plastic bag provided by Y.H.
The crime took place within the exterior boundaries of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica A. Betley and Kris A. McLean prosecuted the case for the United States.
Matuck faces possible penalties of mandatory life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Fort Peck Tribes Criminal Investigation Division.