RACINE — It was a bloody fray.
Eight people shot, three dead.
That is what officers found when they arrived in the 1300 block of Washington Avenue at 2 a.m. on July 17, 2005.
An officer had heard the gunfire just minutes earlier but by the time his colleagues arrived on scene, blood had already been shed.
Frank Mister, 23, was lying on the sidewalk unresponsive, his legs spilling on to the street. Ryan Lockridge, 23, was in a nearby parking lot with a bullet wound to his head. Aaron Woods, 23, was on the ground. He wasn’t breathing and he had a weak pulse.
On Friday, nearly eight years after she lost her son, Woods’ mother Mary Helena wept openly in a Racine County courtroom as Assistant District Attorney Jacalyn LaBre read a grisly list of charges against her son’s accused killer — 29-year-old Juwan Matthews of Racine.
After years of investigating Matthews, police believe they now have the evidence to convict him for killing Woods and Lockridge.
Matthews, who appeared via video conference for his initial appearance, faces two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, for those deaths, and four counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide for injuring four others.
His bond was set at $500,000. A preliminary hearing has been set for 9 a.m. Wednesday.
If convicted, Matthews could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Each of the first-degree intentional homicide charges he faces carry the possibility of life in prison. Each attempted first-degree intentional homicide charge carries the possibility of 60 years in prison.
Police Chief Art Howell sat in the courtroom along with Investigator Chad Stillman and other officers during Matthews’ initial appearance.
Asked if Matthews was “the only suspect” in the 2005 killings, Howell said: “He’s the one that we have enough to arrest.”
Howell said solving the bloody 2005 case has long been a priority for the department.
“When we started doing cold case reviews in 2009 one of the first things we wanted to do is reach out to the family members, and let them know that their loved ones were not forgotten, that their cases were not forgotten and the department was working hard on a regular basis to bring the people responsible to justice,” he said.
When they went looking for cold cases to review, they kept an eye out for cases, like the 2005 triple homicide, where previous detectives had retired. The main objective, he said, was “to refresh the cases.”
Although Matthews, who has been serving time on federal drug charges in California, had been investigated for the triple homicide before, momentum in the case against him picked up in late 2011 and 2012 when Stillman took over.
The criminal complaint against Matthews released Friday details interviews between Stillman and alleged witnesses to the shooting who put Matthews, gun in hand, at the scene. Stillman said Friday that a lot of things led to police being able to charge Matthews with the crime — witnesses coming forward who had been apprehensive in the past, new leads, and a good working relationship with the Racine County District Attorney’s Office.
Speaking to reporters he described what led to the gang-related shooting, allegedly spurred by a crooked game of dice.
“Greed, money, weapons and pride were involved,” he said. “Some people thought they were done wrong and it led to violence and more violence.”
Woods told reporters that while she appreciates the work investigators have done to bring someone to justice for the slayings, especially since she had thought the police department had forgotten about her and the families of the dead, it is still cold comfort.
“To the families who have a loss such as this there are no winners,” she said. “Whether someone is convicted or not we are still going to be grieving.”