KENOSHA — Donna Matthews will spend the rest of her life in prison for first-degree murder of a Kenosha man in 2016.
On hearing the sentence Aug. 31, Matthews wept and shouted out as she was led from the court, appearing to say, “You know he’s an animal ... you know he’s a freak.”
Matthews, 52, was convicted by a jury of first-degree homicide after a two-week trial in July. She has maintained that she shot and killed her former boyfriend, Michael Gayan, in Kenosha in self-defense because he had stalked her and threatened to kill her and members of her family.
Prosecutors argued that she carefully planned the killing — traveling from Hawaii to Kenosha and timing the fatal shots to coincide with the Fourth of July fireworks — because she was embarrassed by sexually explicit photos of her that Gayan had posted on Facebook.
At her sentencing Aug. 31, Matthews asked for mercy from Kenosha County Circuit Judge Jodi Meier.
“I am not the lying, manipulative woman I was portrayed as being through the trial,” Matthews said.
She also apologized to members of Gayan’s family and to her own family.
“I do not want to die in prison,” she said. “I was scared and alone, and I believed in my heart that I had extinguished all my options.”
In first-degree homicide cases, there is a mandatory life sentence, but that mandate allows for a release from prison to lifetime extended supervision. The mandatory minimum initial confinement in prison is 20 years.
Defense attorney Patrick Cafferty argued for that minimum, saying Matthews had never before been arrested, had an excellent work history, past military service and strong family ties. He said, if given the minimum prison time, she would be released at age 72 and “she most certainly would not represent a danger to the public at that time.”
“This was a sick, sick relationship. There were contributions on both sides of it to make it a sick relationship,” Cafferty said. “What she did was a product of that sick relationship.”
Deputy District Attorney Angelina Gabriele, however, argued that Matthews should be imprisoned for the rest of her life, calling Matthews manipulative and smug. Gabriele said Matthews’ claims she was a victim of domestic abuse was an insult to real abuse victims.
“What we see is that she really believed that she would be the hero of this story. She had built up in her mind this ‘Lifetime’ movie script,” Gabriele said. “She is no hero.”
In announcing her sentence, Meier said Matthews’ admission that she swore at Gayan while she killed him showed her motivation.
“That is pure hatred,” Meier said. “The fact that you can let pure hatred govern your actions makes you a very dangerous individual.”
Derrick Matthews, who aided his sister in the murder by providing a gun and a ride to Gayan’s home, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in exchange for testifying against his sister at trial. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 14.
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