DETROIT — Detroit police allege that a murder suspect who was released after his case was botched 15 years ago is also being investigated as a suspect in homicides in two other states.
James Matthews, 65, is a suspect in two homicides in Michigan, three in Texas and one in New York, police told The Detroit News .
Authorities are investigating how a 2003 case against Matthews was mishandled after Detroit police arrested him for allegedly strangling a woman. Matthews was released from jail when a warrant against him wasn't filed within the required time frame of 72 hours.
Detroit detectives gathered enough evidence four months after Matthews' release to submit a murder warrant to prosecutors. But both police and prosecutors have said they don't know what happened to the case after that.
"He should have been charged years ago," said Detroit police Chief James Craig. "There's enough blame to go around: Prosecutors never did anything with the warrant request, and our detectives didn't follow up on it. The case just fell into a black hole."
Court records didn't list Matthews' attorney Tuesday. He's awaiting extradition from New York to Wayne County, where he faces a murder charge for the 2003 strangulation and an assault charge.
Police have linked Matthews' DNA to a sexual assault case in 2000, said Tracy Weinert, a Detroit officer. Weinert said Matthews and the victim knew each other, and he was arrested after the assault. But the victim never showed up to testify so she was deemed an uncooperative witness and he was released.
Officers contacted the victim in April and she agreed to testify. Weinert said it led to Matthews being charged with first-degree criminal sexual assault. He was also arrested in New York in April for a 2007 homicide, but a grand jury dismissed the charges.
"The victims are all black women in their 30s, and they were all strangled in abandoned houses," Weinert said.
He'll be extradited to Michigan within a few weeks, Weinert said.
"We believe (Matthews) is a serial killer who committed more murders after he should have been charged," Craig said. "It's a tragic situation."