POINT PLEASANT — Matthew C. Woods, 25, Gallipolis Ferry, has pleaded guilty to second degree murder as part of a plea agreement he entered into on Friday morning in Mason County Circuit Court.
Woods, along with Chad W. McCallister, 30, Apple Grove, and Steven L. Adkins, Jr., 26, Apple Grove, were charged in the July 2011 murder of Rene Gonzalez. A grand jury indicted the men in January on first degree murder charges.
Woods, along with his counsel Kevin Huhgart and Mason County Prosecuting Attorney Damon Morgan, appeared before Judge David W. Nibert to discuss the plea.
Woods agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge, second degree murder, which basically removes the deliberate element of first degree murder. He also agreed to cooperate with the prosecution by providing “truthful testimony” in relation to the other two men charged in the murder indictment. McCallister’s trial is set for Dec. 11 while Adkins recently requested new attorneys to represent his case.
The plea agreement also states upon Woods’ admission of guilt to murder in the second degree, the state will dismiss a burglary charge allegedly involving Woods in June 2011.
During Morgan’s summary of the state’s evidence against Woods, it was noted Woods had been accused of being a part of planning a conspiracy, along with Adkins and McCallister, to rob Gonzalez. Woods was also accused of driving Adkins to Gonzalez’s Gallipolis Ferry home where Adkins allegedly shot the victim twice with a .410 shotgun. During his summary, Morgan also stated prior to Gonzalez’s murder, there was an alleged dispute involving McCallister, his ex-wife Ashley Edmonds and Gonzalez. Morgan said Edmonds and Gonzalez share a daughter, and the dispute had to do with the care of the child.
At Friday’s hearing, Nibert discussed the section of the plea containing Woods’ statement regarding his involvement in the crime. Morgan was then permitted to question further on this matter with Woods consenting.
While being questioned by Morgan, Woods said McCallister had called him to ask that he give a “buddy” a ride. The “buddy” was later identified by Woods as Adkins. Woods said he went to McCallistser’s home on Millstone Road where the three men entered into a plan to “rob and maybe assault” Gonzalez. Morgan then asked if all three men knew of the possibilities of robbing or causing harm to Gonzalez which Woods confirmed.
Woods said he didn’t know Gonzalez but knew of him when he drove Adkins to Gonzalez’s home. He said Adkins was out of his sight when he heard two gunshots. Woods then said Adkins came back to the car and indicated he had killed Gonzalez. Woods and Adkins then went back to McCallister’s residence, telling McCallister what had happened.
Morgan asked what McCallister’s reaction was upon hearing of Gonzalez’s murder, with Woods’ responding, “excitement.”
Morgan then asked Woods if McCallister seemed “pleased” to which Woods said “yes.”
Woods said he then drove Adkins to Point Pleasant and dropped him off.
Nibert granted the defendant’s request to be immediately transferred from the Western Regional Jail to the Central Regional Jail. Hugart told Nibert his client had already been assaulted once at the Western Regional Jail and now that he’d agreed to testify in the cases against McCallister and Adkins, he was concerned about his safety. All three men charged in Gonzalez’s murder had been housed at the Western Regional Jail up until this point.
The state is asking for a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for Woods. Nibert referred the case to county probationary officers for a recommendation on sentencing, scheduling that sentencing for 1 p.m., Dec. 10 in Mason County Circuit Court.