Matthew Fox found guilty of first-degree murder

2010-10-29T16:45:00Z 2010-10-29T19:26:39Z Matthew Fox found guilty of first-degree murderBy LORI PILGER and ZACH PLUHACEK / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

A thin, bearded Matthew Fox gave no visible response as a judge read a jury's verdict of guilty in his first-degree murder case Friday.

He swiveled slowly in his chair, looking mostly at the desk in front of him.

Fox, now 21, was accused of hitting his mother, Sherry Fox, in the head with an ax 14 times in the basement of their Lincoln home at 25th and E streets two years ago.

The number of wounds Sherry Fox suffered was evidence of her son's intent to kill, the prosecution said at trial. Blood spatter showed she was hit, fell to the floor and was hit again, then rolled over and likely struck again.

"That's somebody who has a purpose. That's somebody who made sure they got the job done," Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Jim Rocke said of Fox in closing arguments.

But Fox's attorney, Jerry Soucie, argued his client was insane at the time, suffering from depression so severe he was unable to know right from wrong. He wasn't thinking about his actions when he started swinging the ax, chopping up furniture in the half-finished basement with concrete floors.

Fox's mom walked into it and got killed, Soucie said.

He told jurors they had enough evidence to find Fox not responsible by reason of insanity, or, if not, guilty of manslaughter because he lacked the intent to kill his mother, the only person in the world who showed him love and affection.

"He's a deeply, deeply disturbed young man," Soucie said after the verdict. "He still remains in a very serious depressive state."

The jury found Fox guilty of both first-degree murder and use of a weapon to commit murder, reaching the verdict around 4 p.m.

The sentence for the murder conviction is life without parole. Lancaster County District Judge Robert Otte ordered Fox to remain at the Lincoln Regional Center until his sentencing, scheduled for Dec. 20.

Soucie said it's too early to know if there will be an appeal. He wouldn't say if Fox had any expectations about the verdict or whether he offered any reaction in private.

"Matt ... is just really not engaged with this entire process," he said. "He never was able to face the trauma of what happened."

The Fox family left the courtroom quietly Friday.

Soucie said Sherry Fox's brother shook his hand and thanked him for his work on the case.

"It's been very difficult for them."

Matthew Fox's brother and sister both testified at trial, saying they were concerned about his mental state. In closing arguments, Soucie said if anything about Fox was clear, it was that he had a level of depression that stretched back three years before his mother's death on Oct. 25, 2008.

But unfortunately, in modern America, having a mental illness is a stigma, he said.

"The things that should have happened to this kid never happened," he said earlier Friday.

Rocke didn't dispute Fox suffers from mental illness. But, he said, the defense's own expert stopped short of saying he was insane at the time of the killing. The defense didn't meet its burden, he said.

He argued it was clear that Fox knew what he had done and that it was wrong by what he told witnesses when he tried to get someone to call the police.

He didn't say his mom was hurt or to call for help. He said he thought he had killed her and to call the police. When pushed, Fox said he hit her in the head.

"The state's never asked you to find that he's a cold-blooded killer," Rocke told the jury. "You can feel as sorry as you want for Matt Fox."

But that doesn't excuse him for his actions, he said.

Reach Lori Pilger at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

Reach Zach Pluhacek at 402-473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com.

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