A jury unanimously found a 26-year old Golden Meadow man guilty Thursday after hearing testimony and deliberating for less than an hour in District Judge Chris Boudreaux’s courtroom.
Eric Matherne was found guilty of first-degree rape in the 2017 sexual assault of a 20-month old toddler. He now faces a mandatory life sentence without probation, parole or suspension of sentence.
Jury selection wrapped up Tuesday and the trial began Wednesday morning with the jury finding him guilty before noon Thursday.
A Lafourche grand jury found enough evidence to indict Matherne on a charge of first degree rape on Sept. 13, 2017, following an investigation conducted by the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Matherne was arrested July 20, 2017, after the 20-month-old girl was taken to Lady of the Sea General Hospital with signs of sexual abuse, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Testimony heard at trial showed that at the time of the assault, the victim was staying at her aunt’s Galliano mobile home while her grandmother was away on a fishing boat, prosecutors said.
The grandmother took the child to seek medical attention after finding blood in the toddler’s diaper, prosecutors said. Physicians determined the girl had suffered vaginal trauma and transferred her to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans for further treatment.
Lafourche Detective Corey Brooks was then alerted about the incident and began investigating.
“We received information about a 20-month-old female with trauma, bleeding and tears to her vaginal area,” Brooks said during testimony. “We gathered from the doctors that the baby was sexually assaulted.”
While interviewing multiple people who had contact with the victim, Brooks testified, he became suspicious of Matherne because his statements were inconsistent.
Matherne, who was the aunt’s boyfriend, gave investigators two different accounts of the events that transpired on the night of the alleged incident.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Chatagnier, who’s prosecuting the case along with Assistant District Attorney Rene Gautreaux, showed the 12-member jury videos of both interviews.
In the first interview, Matherne told Brooks and Sgt. Rodney Morrison he and his friend drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes and played cards most of the night after the child’s aunt went to bed. The victim and two other children slept in another room.
Matherne consented to submitting a DNA sample and waived his rights to speak to an attorney, Brooks said.
Shortly after the first interview, Matherne amended his story and told investigators he found dried blood on his pelvic area on the morning of July 18, 2017. The change of narrative prompted detectives to interview him a second time.
“You got blood on you,” Morrison tells Matherne in the video. “You know how you got the blood on you. Take the high road. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re going to have to live with this for the rest of your life. Whose blood was on your pelvis?”
Matherne then buries his head into his hands and tells the detectives he sexually assaulted the toddler shortly after changing her diaper.
“I was changing her diaper and wiping her,” Mathene says in the video. “And then … My old lady’s never going to forgive me. That’s when I shoved my finger in her. From there it escalated.”
Several jury members wiped their eyes with tissues as they watched the defendant in the video tell detectives he had sex with the toddler but stopped after the child began screaming.
“I then stuck my (expletive) in her,” Matherne says. “After that she screamed. ... She just looked at me. I don’t know what I was thinking or what was going through my head. I can’t take back what I’ve done.”
Matherne’s court-appointed attorney Andrew Wise said the DNA sample was not sufficient to link his client to the crime. He also criticized the thoroughness of the Sheriff’s Office investigation because the victim had been left alone with other men at the time of the rape.
Wise said his client felt compelled to give a statement to police because he was told he had failed a lie-detector test, which is inadmissible evidence.
Information from: The Courier, http://www.houmatoday.com
Posted on Fri, May 24, 2019
by The Lafourche Gazette