Written by The Wolf Point Herald
A 27-year-old Poplar man will likely spend the remainder of his life in prison for the strangulation death of a drinking companion in August 2011.
The United States Attorney’s Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls on Jan. 7 before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, Adrien John Matuck, an enrolled member of the Hualapai Tribe in Arizona, was sentenced to a term of life in prison, a special assessment of $100, $6,677 in restitution and five years supervised release.
Matuck was sentenced after a federal district court trial in which he was found guilty of first degree murder.
At trial, the following evidence and testimony was presented to the jury.
During the evening of Aug. 6, 2011, and into the early morning hours of Aug. 7, 2011, in Poplar, Matuck met up with a few other people, including Raymond Brown, 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 Aug. 7, 2011, Matuck and several others went to one of the group’s car. Brown was passed out in the backseat. M.V. told Brown to get up and in response Brown slapped M.V. Matuck became angry and punched Brown.
Due to the commotion, J.W. stopped the car and Matuck got out of the passenger seat. L.S., M.V., and Brown also got out of the car. Brown 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 Brown and he pulled off his shirt to wipe his face. He pointed his finger at Brown 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. Brown 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 trailerhouse. They heard their dog barking around 7 a.m. that morning. 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 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. Brown was still in the recliner and looked like he was passed out. L.S. yelled at Brown to get up. The back door opened and Matuck came inside. J.W. asked him 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 laid down on a mattress positioned on the living room floor in front of the recliner where the victim sat. L.S. went over to Brown and grabbed his face. Brown 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 Brown could also not be excluded as potential contributors 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.
Because there is no parole in the federal system, the “truth in sentencing” guidelines mandate that Matuck will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, Matuck does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for “good behavior.” However, this reduction will not exceed 15 percent of the overall sentence.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Fort Peck Tribes Criminal Investigation Division.