Convicted killer asks for parole after 20 years in prison
NATICK, Mass. -- Rod Matthews, who once said he beat a 14-year-old classmate to death with a baseball bat to see what it was like to kill, told the state Parole Board Tuesday he now knows he committed the murder to vent his rage over his parents' marital problems.
"I wanted to take my anger out on him," Matthews said as he pleaded to be released after 20 years in prison.
"I considered myself an angry kid at the time. I did not know what to do with that anger. I did not understand that anger," he said.
Matthews was 14 when he lured Shaun Ouillette into the woods in Canton on Nov. 20, 1986, and bludgeoned him to death. He was convicted of second-degree murder after the jury rejected his defense that he was insane and pushed over the edge by Ritalin, a drug used to calm hyperactive children.
Matthews, now 34 and balding -- a stark contrast to the slight, red-haired boy who first appeared in court more than 20 years ago -- said Tuesday that anger over his father's repeated extramarital affairs led to the killing. He also said he did it to impress two friends whom he had told about his plans.
Years of psychotherapy also has made him realize that neither insanity nor Ritalin was to blame, Matthews said. He apologized to Ouillette's family and said he could never forgive himself.
"I stopped him from growing into a man who could have been so much to so many," he said.
During the trial, friends of Matthews testified he wanted to experience what it was like to kill someone, and chose Ouillette because he was new to the area and Matthews thought he wouldn't be missed.
Matthews recounted in chilling detail how he befriended Ouillette with a game of pool, then lured him to the woods by asking if he wanted to help build a fort. Once in the woods, Matthews said he struck Ouillette from behind in the head -- dropping Ouillette to his knees.
"He yelled out, 'God help me,' and then I hit him seven more times," Matthews said as Ouillette's mother, Jeanne Quinn, gasped and sobbed in the hearing room.
After killing Ouillette, Matthews showed the body to several friends as search teams spent weeks scouring the South Shore for the missing boy.
"If I ever have these thoughts, I will get help. ... I do not want to hurt anybody ever again," said Matthews, who broke down in tears several times during his testimony.
But board members expressed skepticism that he could be sure he would not kill again. The board denied Ouillette's first bid for parole in 2001 after Matthews said he had struggled to understand the thoughts that drove him to kill and could not guarantee he wouldn't succumb to them again.
Board Chairwoman Maureen Walsh said Matthews developed a "cool and cunning and manipulative plan" to kill Ouillette.
Quinn urged the board to keep Matthews in prison -- but not for vengeance.
"I am here to keep us all safe, because I am afraid of what will happen if this man is set free," she said.
James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University who has visited Matthews five times over the past year, testified in favor of his parole. Fox said Matthews, as a teenager, did not realize the consequences of his actions. He said Matthews is a different person today.
"The Rod Matthews who was able to plan a cold-blooded murder ... that wouldn't happen today," he said.
The board was not expected to rule for at least a month.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)