Jury to continue deliberations Friday in Bowie County murder trial

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NEW BOSTON, Texas: A Bowie County jury deliberated for about five hours Thursday in the case of Toddrick Matthews, a man accused of beating and strangling his girlfriend to death in 2013.

At about 9:45 p.m., 5th District Judge Bill Miller placed the jury in an evening recess with instructions to return Friday morning.

Friends and family of Sonjha Banks, 37, testified at trial that Banks had dated Toddrick Matthews for about nine months at the time of her death. Two witnesses, a friend and a cousin of Banks’, testified that Matthews was possessive and would repeatedly call if Banks didn’t answer her phone.

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Banks’ mother, Alice Runnels, testified that she, Matthews and Banks went to a church musical and a family gathering on the day of Banks’ death. Runnels said that she thought it was strange that Banks did not get out of Matthews’ truck after he brought them home and left without tending to her dog.

Toddrick Matthews’ stepbrother, George Matthews, testified that Toddrick Matthews came to his home on the night of Banks’ death and gave him a pistol which George Matthews testified he disposed of in a dumpster. George Matthews testified that Toddrick Matthews asked him to go for a ride and that on the way to Toddrick Matthews’ mother’s home in Ashdown, Ark., Toddrick Matthews confessed to killing Banks. George Matthews’ wife testified that George Matthews told her of the alleged confession when he returned home after midnight Sept. 9, 2013.

Toddrick Matthews called 911 shortly after 2 a.m. Sept. 9, 2013, and reported that he could see smoke coming from his mobile home on Hobbs Lane in Hooks, Texas. More than a minute into the call, Toddrick Matthews tells the dispatcher that he found his girlfriend submerged in the bathtub and unresponsive.

Members of law enforcement testified that they believe Matthews attempted to destroy evidence by placing Banks in a tub and adding various cleaning products to the water. Investigators testified that they believe Matthews attempted to set fire to the home by igniting gasoline he poured on the floors of the master bedroom and bathroom.

Crime lab analysts testified that sperm matching Matthews’ DNA was found on vaginal swabs collected at autopsy.

Miller ruled that testimony from a woman Matthews allegedly assaulted in 2011 was inadmissible. First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told the court that the woman claims Matthews attempted to have sex with her after pointing a gun at her and removing her pants. Crisp said the woman ran half-nude to a neighbor’s home for help after getting away. Miller ruled that the testimony would likely be too prejudicial and was not clearly similar enough to the crime alleged against Banks to be admitted under Texas law.

Investigators testified that no women’s clothing or shoes were found in the trailer, leading them to conclude Toddrick Matthews removed the items and disposed of them.

Crisp and Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards argued that all of the evidence points to Toddrick Matthews. Longview, Texas, defense attorney Bryan Owens argued that the state had not proved its case.

The state has filed notice in the case of its intent to use Toddrick Matthews’ prior criminal convictions to enhance the punishment range he faces from five to 99 or life to 15 to 99 or life.

Continue to check TXK’s website for updates on the jury’s verdict.

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