An attorney for a woman convicted on Wednesday for her role in her brother’s 2017 Silver Spring death has said that they will appeal the case.
Leaundra Matthews, 25, of Accokeek in Prince George’s County, was found guilty of the second-degree murder of her brother, Christian Matthews, 17, according to the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Christian Matthews was fatally strangled by the defendant’s boyfriend, Tysean Lipford, 26, and another co-defendant, Daniel Howard, 27, while he was sleeping in the Matthews’ Silver Spring home during the early morning hours of March 21, 2017, according to the State’s Attorney’s Office.
Leaundra Matthews’ attorney, Jeffrey Zahler, with The Law Offices of Jeffrey A. Zahler, told MoCo360 that they will be appealing the decision because Zahler said certain evidence that would have changed the outcome of the case was not admitted by the court.
The evidence Zahler points to is that Leaundra Matthews had been physically and sexually abused by her brother for years and had PTSD, along with the sibling equivalent of battered spouse syndrome. Her daughter was abused by him too, Zahler added, and Leaundra Matthews was acting in self-defense.
State’s Attorney John McCarthy said in a statement after the conviction:
“This defendant was integral to the plot to kill Christian Matthews and served as the driver, both to and from, the scene of the murder. She executed a significant cover up operation to deflect responsibility, but thanks to the work of the Montgomery County Police Homicide Unit and Assistant State’s Attorneys Ashley Inderfurth and Sheila Bagheri, she will now be held accountable.”
When contacted Wednesday, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to provide MoCo360 with further comment.
Zahler said that Leaundra Matthews had been diagnosed with PTSD by a doctor from the defense and one that the prosecution provided. However, the court deemed this mental illness evidence inadmissible because the battered spouse syndrome argument can only be used when a couple is involved, according to Zahler.
Zahler argued that the distinction between romantic and sibling relationships in terms of abuse should not matter in this case.
“If all the facts had been the same, but they had been a husband or wife or just a romantic relationship, it seems most likely the jury would have heard the information,” Zahler said.
Zahler added that on the night of the murder, Christian Matthews threatened that he and their stepbrother would rape Leaundra Matthews and her daughter later that day, but the jury never heard that.
“It’s unfortunate the jury never really got to see most of the evidence, and that’s really going to be one of the main grounds of appeal there,” Zahler said.
Leaundra Matthews told Lipford that he could fight her brother, since they had been in an escalating disagreement for a long time, according to Zahler.
Lipford’s friend, Howard, joined in to fight Christian Matthews in the basement of the Silver Spring home, and it escalated to a killing, Zahler said.
In January 2019, Lipford was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced in June 2019 to 30 years in prison, which he is currently serving, the State’s Attorney’s Office said.
Howard is also facing murder charges, and his trial is set for April 2024.
Leaundra Matthews’ twin sister, Lemae Matthews, was in the home at the time of the death and was part of the case as well, according to charging documents. Additionally, Lemae Matthews pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to murder in October 2021 and will be sentenced after Howard’s trial, facing up to 10 years in prison according to the State’s Attorney’s Office.
Leaundra Matthews was found guilty of second-degree murder because she allowed Lipford and others to fight her brother, knowing he could sustain serious injuries and potentially die, according to Zahler.
The jury acquitted her of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder since she did not premeditatedly plan his death, Zahler said.
However, according to charging documents, when her mother, Patricia Edelin, asked her if the plan was to beat up her brother, not kill him, and she said “No, you already know how Christian is you know that if he is going to get into a fight it wasn’t going to stop there so we had to stop him.”
Leaundra Matthews faces up to 30 years in prison, and her sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19, the State’s Attorney’s Office said.
Brian Shefferman, with Shefferman Law, is the lead attorney on Leaundra Matthews’ case and confirmed to MoCo360 that he and Zahler plan to appeal this case after the sentencing.