Local News

Parents testify about loss on first day of Raleigh couple's trial

Posted July 28, 2015
Updated July 30, 2015

— As the trial began Tuesday for a Raleigh couple charged with supplying alcohol to minors at a June 2014 wedding party, jurors heard from the parents of the teen killed after he left that party and crashed his car.

Jonathon Gregory Taylor, 18, died when his vehicle hit a tree. On Tuesday, Taylor's friends told the court that they secretly drank liquor before the wedding and openly drank wine in front of adults once the party began.

The question before the jury is whether the hosts of the party, Dr. Charles Joseph Matthews, 59, and Kimberly Hunt Matthews, 52, are criminally responsible for providing that alcohol. Each faces four counts of aiding and abetting the consumption of alcohol by minors.

"This trial is about the Matthewses and what they did that night to allow this to happen," Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller said Tuesday. "Your responsibility is to figure out: Could they have put a stop to this?"

The Matthewses' attorney, Hart Miles, tried to distance the couple from the underage drinking during his opening statement. He called the teens who drank at the party "selfish, inconsiderate, reckless" and said the couple had little interaction with their younger guests.

Among those guests was Taylor, known as JT. Hart said it was Taylor's parents who found his crumpled car as they looked for their son when he failed to come home.

His mother, Carrie Taylor, was the first to take the witness stand.

"He was beautiful. He was all dressed up," she said, and his last words to her were "I love you, Mama."

Carrie Taylor and her husband, Greg, were not invited to the wedding but testified that they had no qualms about sending their son.

"We had no inclination to believe a wedding, that he wouldn't make it home alive," Greg Taylor told the court.

When he didn't, the Taylors first checked at the Matthews house, but JT had left.

They began calling classmates and sending text messages, Carrie Taylor said.

"I started getting fearful when I couldn't find him," Greg Taylor said.

They finally came upon a crash scene on Hunting Ridge Road.

"The whole road was blocked off with yellow tape," she said. "There were blinding blue lights."

"I'll never forget hearing Carrie saying, 'Jon's dead,'" Greg Taylor told the court. "That's a haunting thing to hear your wife say."

It would be about two hours before Kimberley Matthews called the Taylor house to check on JT and learned of the crash and his death.

According to investigators, the Matthewses' son, 19-year-old Thomas Blake Matthews, bought liquor at an ABC store and provided it to his friends.

Anna Ergish, who testified Tuesday afternoon, admitted to having been drunk at the party.

Another teen, Natalie Freeman, said the group agreed to drink together and spend the night.

Over time, she felt so impaired that she left the party and went to the basement, Freeman said. "I definitely knew that I had reached a pretty impaired level," she said.

Ultimately, Freeman called her father for a ride.

"They've always taught me to call them," she said. "They wanted me to be safe."

JT Taylor's mother testified that she had the same understanding with his son.

"I always said, 'Call me. I don't care what the circumstances are, I will pick you up,'" she said.

The Matthewes attorney Miles did not quibble with the facts of Jonathan Taylor's crash, but said investigators were too quick to target his clients.

"The Matthewses were targeted very early in the investigation," he said. "JT Taylor's death was a tragedy. The investigation was an emotional response to that tragedy."

Before the trial began, Miles moved to dismiss the charges against his clients on that argument, but a judge denied his request.

Thomas Matthews was charged along with his parents, but he pleaded guilty before their trial began. He will be sentenced after the trial of his parents.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Angie Cox Jul 30, 2015
    user avatar

    why is the school teacher also not to blame? if she knew and confronted them, she's just as guilty

  • Brandon Polk Jul 29, 2015
    user avatar

    So we are to believe that 3 years later this young man would have had the maturity to make a better decision than to drink and drive? 3 years makes the difference between the hosts being able to assume he is responsible or assuming he is some sort of man/child that must be monitored and scolded and followed around at the party to ensure he doesn't drink? He is a young man who knew the consequences of his actions; tragic, yes, but assigning blame on the hosts doesn't make sense to me.

  • Angie Cox Jul 29, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    in NC you are an adult at 16 years old.

  • Angie Cox Jul 29, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    you are correct and his Dad was a police officer so he should know better than anyone!

  • Jessica House Jul 29, 2015
    user avatar

    It's really interesting how many people want to remove any blame from this young man and place it squarely on the host's shoulders. After all, at 18 you can get married, vote, join the armed forces and pay your own way in the world. You can certainly make an informed decision not to illegally get drunk and then drive after you have been provided a safe ride from relatives. The 20 yr old UNC-CH student is getting entirely different treatment, and the only difference seems to be he killed 3 other people and not himself.

  • Paul Jones Jul 29, 2015
    user avatar

    The guy who died was an adult who drank whiskey that had nothing to do with the event at the home.

    It's pathetic that the family of the dead man would try to blame these people for their son's mistake.

  • Belle Boyd Jul 29, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    By NC law he was not a kid...he was an adult. He made the adult decision to drink and drive. His stupidity got him killed. I did say that everyone in this story deserves blame.
    I know plenty of people that do not feel sorry for drunk drivers. How would you feel if he had gotten someone else killed like a child? Would you feel the same way? You can call my comments insensitive all you like, but it is the truth.

  • Vanessa Poston Jul 29, 2015
    user avatar

    Hi all. I don't know all the details of this story. As the mother of a teenager I know 1) they often make bad decisions, 2) they don't think about the consequences of their actions because they think they're always right and invincible, and 3) they can be very sneaky. Therefore, I can understand why and how the kids drank at this reception, but I don't how they seemingly got away with it. Though I don't have all the facts, as a parent, if I hosted a party that included teenagers and alcohol I would be vigilant. I'd also like to think I'd recognize when my guests became intoxicated, especially when it comes to driving. Also, I'd have a responsibility to other parents to care for their children, and that's something I take very seriously. I don't know what happened at the wedding reception with the Matthews. Hopefully we'll learn more from the trial.

  • Paul Maxwell Jul 28, 2015
    user avatar

    Their house, their liquor, their fault.

  • Lewis Smeltzer Jul 28, 2015
    user avatar

    The only person responsible for this young mans death is himself. He was an 18 year old man, not a kid. Other than the ability to buy a drink, this man was an adult in the eyes of the law. I am sorry he died - but it was his decision and risk.