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Man pleads guilty in death of girlfriend

Sat., March 31, 2007

Someday a Spokane County man will have to explain to his 3-year-old son how he helped kill the boy’s mother.

Jeffrey M. Matthews, 23, pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree manslaughter in connection with the Oct. 16, 2005, death of his 22-year-old live-in girlfriend, Tonya Eisenhart.

Matthews admitted giving Eisenhart doses of methadone that he had obtained from Eisenhart’s mother.

Matthews was originally charged last November with controlled substance homicide for providing the drugs that killed Eisenhart. But he agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge. Charges against Eisenhart’s mother were earlier dismissed.

Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark sentenced Matthews, who has no previous felony convictions, to 21 months in prison, which will be reduced by the five months he’s already served in the Spokane County Jail.

“Nobody believes you intended to have this result,” Clark told Matthews. “But there are consequences for your part in that. You will remember (Eisenhart) every time you look at that child.

“Someday, he’ll ask you what happened. I hope you will be able to deal with that,” Clark said.

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Mark Lindsey said Matthews has shown nothing but remorse from the beginning of the case.

“I think the whole thing is very tragic, your honor,” Lindsey said.

Assistant Public Defender Steven Reich said that Eisenhart had been suffering from leg pain and that her mother had agreed to get her methadone, which she gave to Matthews.

Eisenhart died after taking the drugs. Spokane County Medical Examiner Dr. Sally Aiken later determined that Eisenhart died from acute methadone intoxication, according to court records.

Reich said his client never denied his role.

In the hearing, Matthews told Clark that he is “really sad all this happened. It was never my intention for her to die,” he said.

“I’ve been left alone in this world,” said Matthews to an empty courtroom gallery save for two corrections deputies and a reporter. “It’s all been really hard on me.”

The couple’s son now lives with his great-grandparents in Cheney.

“Can you imagine what your son is going through?” Clark asked Matthews. “He’s lost his mom, and now he’s lost his dad.”


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