Unsolved murder remains police priority

Why hasn’t the killer of Mark Matthews been brought to justice? Two years after someone killed a Homer man near a popular downtown trail, that’s a question Matthews’ brother asked.

“Those cops, they’ve got that place wired. They have to know who did this,” Mike Kohel, one of three siblings of Matthews, said in a phone interview earlier this month from his home in Everett, Wash.

Someone killed Matthews, then 61, on July 28, 2013. Two people walking on the Poopdeck Trail between Hazel Avenue and Pioneer Avenue found his body about 10:15 p.m. that night. 

After an autopsy by the State Medical Examiner, police ruled his death a homicide.

Homer’s only unsolved murder remains a priority for Homer Police, Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said.

“I want the public to know we’re still working on this case, actively working on this case. It’s not on the back burner and it’s not forgotten,” he said. “Our intent is to keep working on this case until we bring somebody to justice.”

Citing the ongoing investigation, Robl said he could not release any new information about the case, including how Matthews died or the probable means of death. Police have interviewed dozens of people in their investigation and continue to talk to people.

“The length of time it’s taking is frustrating. I would say once the details of the investigation become public, people will realize how complicated the investigation is and why it’s taken so long,” Robl 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. Homer Police Sgt. Lary Kuhns remains the lead investigator. Anyone with information in the case can call Homer Police at 907-235-3150 or Crimestoppers at 800-478-HALT (478-4258).

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 behind the cleaning center 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. Robl said Matthews went between camping in the woods to living in temporary housing.

Matthews also had a job from time to time, Robl said. Matthews moved to Homer sometime in the fall of 2012. Police had no contact with Matthews while he lived in Homer.

“My brother Mark, he had his own way of life, but he had a heart as big as gold,” Kohel said. “He was a great person. He’d give anybody his last dime. That’s part of his problem, too. He had money and would give it away.”

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. His family called him “a man with a tender heart for his family, friends and his dogs.”

“Mark was a good guy,” Kohel said. “He did not deserve what he got.”

Kohel said he wondered if the person who killed Matthews was from Homer and is still in Homer.

“If this guy has been around two years, he apparently doesn’t have any fear of being caught,” Kohel said.

After Matthews was murdered, police said they believed his death was an isolated incident and there is no danger to the general public. Robl said last week that’s still the case.

Robl said he called Matthews’ family on the two-year anniversary. When interviewed in 2014 on the one-year anniversary, Robl said he had a photograph of Matthews on his desk and that it would stay there until the case is solved.

“It’s still there, right on my desk,” Robl said recently.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.