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1974 - Matla

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The Fenton Independent
Thursday January 24, 1974

Open Warrant Issued Folowing
Death Of Fenton Woman
In First Murder In 20 Years

In Genesee county jail waiting trial on an open murder warrant is Charles W. Matla, 49, of (Omitted) S. Holly road, accused of killing his wife Patricia Coreen Matla, 42, by throwing her down the basement stairs of their home on Dec. 22.

Fenton police, after a laborious investigation in which more than 23 persons were interviewed, obtained a warrant from the county prosecutor's office for Matla's arrest Jan. 18. He was picked up and arraigned before Judge Harland Caswell in Central District Court, Flint. After he pleaded not guilty he was remanded to the county jail without bond. Examination was set for Jan. 29.

The murder warrant was said to be the first murder investigation in Fenton in at least 20 years and old timers could not remember any similar case previously.

As details behind the warrant became known the story of the investigation began to read like a detective thriller.

Fenton police officers were called to the Matla home on S. Holly road at 11:34 p.m. when a Michigan Bell Telephone operator notified them that a woman had asked her to call the police.

When officers arrived they asked Matla where his wife was and he told them she was in the basement. They found Mrs. Matla lying at the bottom of the basement stairs, her feet on the last step and her body on the basement floor. A puddle of blood was under her head.

Mrs. Matla was rushed to McLaren hospital by Allen Ambulance. She died there on Dec. 28.

Police officers had informed Matla of his rights and he refused to make any statement to them.

An autopsy on Mrs. Matla was performed by Dr. Frank W. Hodges, pathologist, who reported that death was due to a brain injury caused by a fracture of the skull.

Matla Had told police that he had an argument with his wife. Later there was some evidence that he had been drinking.

Police launched the exhaustive investigation which led to the order murder warrant "based on information and belief that Matla feloniously and wilfully assaulted his wife and inflicted a mortal wound."

Both Matla and his wife had been married previously, Matla three times. The dead woman, whose maiden name was Patricia Coreen Husted, had been married to Joseph Cronin of the Hartland area, but is said to have been divorced. She and Matla had been married nearly two years.

The investigation disclosed that Matla had inserted a notice in The Independent on Sept. 13 stating that he would not be responsible for any person's debts except his own.

Further it was learned that Matla had been acquitted in Lapeer county following the death of his second wife, Winifred Carr, who had died following a fall down the stairs of a farm home on North road, near Columbiaville in September, 1970. He had married Winifred in 1968. Matla was charged with second degree murder at that time but was acquitted in May 1971.

Matla's first wife, Marian Edith Tonkin of Pinconning, was killed in an automobile accident in Lapeer county on Nov. 30, 1966 in a car being driven by Matla.

Matla has been employed by Fisher Body division, Flint, since 1949.

Police records failed to reveal any previous Fenton murder trial. Police Chief Charles M. Conklin said. The Davis murder case, in which a family was killed by a hired man, occured on a farm outside Fenton, in Livingston county.

The police investigation was conducted by Officers Richard Rhyndress and Ron Stephey. While evidence is largely circumstantial Fenton police believed they had a sufficient case to seek a murder warrant, in which the prosecutor's office concurred.

On Saturday, the day after Matla's arrest, a dog in a penned area behind the house was barking. Two cars were parked in the yard beside the house.

The Matla's had no children.

The reason for the quarrel between the couple was not brought out.

In the 1970 death of his second wife Winifred, 64, Matla was accused of beating her with a blunt object. The defense claimed that he had been drinking and arguing, and that he struck her with his fist when she grabbed him and refused to let go. The defense argued that Mrs. Matla later tripped on a vacuum cleaner cord and hit her head on a freshly waxed floor.

A pathologist who performed an autopsy on her body testified that the fatal blow could not have been caused by a fall because she was on her knees when she fell. He said he believed that the blow was caused by a blunt object or by a fall down a flight of stairs.

Another pathologist testified that the blow could have been caused by a fall from a standing position.

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