Chavis fails in bid to reduce murder charge
Arthur Ray Chavis III will stand trial for murder, after a bid to have charges against him reduced was dismissed.
In a preliminary hearing on Friday morning, Judge Ava Bryant Ayers found probable cause to hold co-defendant Chavis over to trial on felony murder charges. Chavis, along with Caleb Brad Matlock, both 23, are accused of murdering 18-year old Dana Woods and 22-year old June Guerry on Aug. 28 after alleging luring the two girls into a remote area of Berkeley County on the premise of searching for Matlock’s lost wallet.
Chavis and Matlock are also charged with armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Matlock waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
Beau Seaton, defense attorney for Chavis, argued that his client could not be charged with felony murder as he had no knowledge of the intent of murder as part of an alleged scheme concocted between Chavis and Matlock, the alleged triggerman.
“How can the prosecution claim malice aforethought when the co-defendant had no prior knowledge of Matlock’s intention to kill these two girls prior to Mr. Matlock pulling out his gun to shoot the two girls?” Seaton asked.
Seaton added that the entire case against his client was based on an assumption that they were going to steal the two girls’ car and rob somebody.
“Felony murder is based on malice aforethought,” he said. “It’s based on the felony murder rule that all people involved with the crime should be so charged. The co-defendant did not believe Mr. Matlock’s contention that he was going to steal the two girls’ car because he didn’t believe Matlock would go through with it.”
According to evidence presented by Bryan Alfaro, Deputy Solicitor for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, Chavis and Matlock wanted to use Woods’ car for a robbery.
BCSO Sargent Geno Alterri testified that both Woods and Guerry were killed near the place off Cane Gully Road in the Cordesville community where investigators found Woods’ burned out car. The two girls died of gunshot wounds to the head from a 9 mm. handgun found in Matlock’s book bag at the time of his arrest.
A 9 mm. shell casing was also found in the vicinity of the vehicle, Alterri said.
Before setting fire to Woods’ Chevrolet Metro, Chavis allegedly loaded Guerry’s body into the trunk of the car and drove it to a gravel road near Alvin where he dumped Guerry’s body in a dirt pit. Chavis then returned to the location off Cane Gully Road where he and Matlock set fire to the car hoping to destroy physical evidence linking them to the crimes.
“Both girls were killed at the same location where Ms. Woods’ body was found,” Alterri said. “The co-defendants wanted the car so they could go rob somebody.”
Aterri added that a witness, a relative of Woods who had worked on the car, saw the vehicle the following day crossing the Tail Race Canal bridge.
“When the witness began to follow the car the co-defendant fled and the witness lost the vehicle,” Alterri said.
Alterri also said that both Matlock and Chavis confessed to the two girls’ murders following their arrest.
The defense argued that there wasn’t any direct physical evidence that connected Chavis to the physical killing of Woods and Guerry other than the confession of Matlock and his girlfriend.
“Presence at the scene does not constitute involvement in the crime,” Seaton said when he moved for dismissal of the murder and armed robbery charges.
Judge Ayers considered the defense’s argument and agreed with the state that there was probable cause to hold the case over for trial.
Jennifer Hill, Dana Woods mother, who attended the hearing said the defense was impersonal in the depiction of events involving the murder of her daughter. “It was just very cold,” she said.