A Washington D.C. woman died at the hands of a man who stalked her for more than two decades, according to prosecutors. Now her loved ones say he should never have been out of jail to begin with.
Sylvia Matthews, 71, met inmate Michael Garrett in 1998, when she worked at a local prison. Local station WUSA reported that once Garrett was released that year, he assaulted Matthews and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Due to COVID outbreaks at DC Jail, a DC Superior Court Judge released Garrett two years early under "compassionate release" in March. The U.S. Attorney's Office opposed the release in court, however.
Garrett was arrested at Matthews’ front door on Oct. 7 and charged with threatening her. Prosecutors declined the case..
Two weeks later on Oct. 22, police say Garrett beat Matthews outside her home. But prosecutors suspended prosecution, but no reason is known.
On Friday, Dec. 3, Sylvia Matthews called police to report that Michael Garrett was breaking into her car and had tried breaking into her house. Police came but didn’t find Garrett.
Matthews called police about an hour later at 8:44 to say she saw her attacker outside and she had him on the phone. Police came and spoke to Garrett on Matthew’s phone, telling him to leave her alone.
For the third time that morning, witnesses reported it was about 11:20 a.m., Garrett again tried to break into Matthew’s home. Police arrived minutes later and say they found the woman nearly dead on the basement floor, suffering from severe head injuries. Garrett was also in that basement and was arrested there by police. Matthews had camera systems outside her home. Matthews died a day later according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
Detectives are currently working with the United States Attorney's Office to file additional charges related to Matthews's death.
Matthews relatives say they are heartbroken and say Garrett should have not been let out.
He should not have been on the street," a relative told NBC Washington. "The system failed us."
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Liz Odongo represents the DC Coalition against Domestic Violence, she told WUSA "Clearly Mr. Garrett had something about Ms. Matthews that he was fixated on. When someone does that, it’s really hard to understand the how and the why and what to do about it because it’s irrational."
She explained that people who suspect loved ones are victims of stalking it’s essential to listen to one’s instincts.
"Most importantly believing the person, understanding and seeing the fear in their voice and their body language and recognizing that they feel alone. DC is fortunate that we have really fabulous resources that help with domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking."