After years of investigation, Homer’s only unsolved murder now awaits a decision by the Kenai District Attorney on whether charges can be filed. Three years ago today, someone killed Mark Matthews, then 61, leaving his body off the Poopdeck Trail between Hazel Avenue and Pioneer Avenue.
Homer Police are still waiting for some DNA tests to be completed, but have sent an investigative report to District Attorney Scot Leaders for his review.
“Next of kin are wondering why we have not gone forward on this,” said Homer Police Sgt. Lary Kuhns, lead investigator on the Matthews murder. “I’m hoping the DA sees the same things we see so we can go forward in administering justice.”
In an email seeking information on the case’s status, Leaders said he could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
Kuhns said the DA’s office has had the report for several months.
Matthews’ sister, Laurie, said she appreciates the kindness of the Homer Police Department and of Kuhns. In order to protect her privacy, Laurie has not given her last name.
“Of course, my patience is thin because I want it (an arrest) to happen,” Laurie said. “Mark was very important to me as he was to my entire family. We just love him and we just want the justice due for him.”
At about 10:15 p.m. July 28, 2013, two people walking on the Poopdeck Trail found Matthews’ body. After an autopsy by the State Medical Examiner, police ruled his death a homicide. Police have not released information about how Matthews died or the probable cause of his death.
Kuhns said the Matthews murder investigation has been intense, with documents taking up two full shelves in his office. Kuhns has written more than 230 pages alone of reports, he said. The case has been challenging because the Poopdeck Trail gets heavy use and investigators had to search for evidence unique and specific to the case, Kuhns said. Police have followed up on every lead and interviewed some witnesses three or four times.
“In all the interviews we’ve conducted, when you put it all together, we think we have the right person or persons involved to go forward,” Kuhns said. “We have put an awful lot of time and resources into the case.”
Laurie said she now understands the pain families go through who have lost loved ones to murder.
“It’s extremely painful. I don’t want this person (the murderer) to be able to do it to anyone else and have another family feel like myself and the rest of my family has felt for nearly three years,” she said.
At the time of his death, Matthews lived with a friend in an apartment above the former Homer Cleaning Center on Main Street. He also had lived in a tent in the Town Center, an undeveloped wooded area east of Main Street and south of Pioneer Avenue.
The city later cleared brush from its land in that area and along a trail from Homer Public Library to the Poopdeck Trail. This summer that area has shown an increase in use by people drinking in public, part of an uptick in public drunkenness in town (see story, page 3).
Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said in an earlier interview that Matthews had a job from time to time. Matthews moved to Homer sometime in the fall of 2012. Police had no contact with Matthews while he lived in Homer.
Laurie said she misses her brother every day.
“If anyone knew Mark like all of us know Mark, he was a keeper. He was a good guy,” she said. “He was extremely funny and had a very sweet soul. I’m sorry we lost him.”
She said wanted to reiterate that “we all love Mark and we miss him every day. Thank you and thank you everyone for taking the efforts they have to help,” Laurie said.
A reward of $10,000 remains available for any information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible for Matthews’ death. Anyone with information in the case can call Homer Police at 907-235-3150 or Crimestoppers at 800-478-HALT (478-4258).
According to his obituary, Matthews was born Nov. 19, 1951, in Seattle and grew up in Washington. He lived in Alaska most of his adult life — in Ketchikan, Anchorage, Anchor Point and Homer — and worked as a carpenter.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.