Local News

Smithfield man found guilty in 74-year-old's beating death

Posted October 26, 2012

— A Johnston County jury on Thursday found a Smithfield man guilty of first-degree murder in the June 2010 beating death of a 74-year-old woman.

Matthew Hagert Salentine was also found guilty of first-degree burglary and first-degree robbery in the death of Patricia Warren Stevens.

Stevens' son found her dead in her home, at 309 N. Third St., on June 24. Salentine, who lived about a block away at the time, was arrested the next day in connection with the crime.

The jury must now decide whether Salentine should face the death penalty in the case.

A sentencing hearing began Friday morning that included emotional testimony from Stevens' daughter, Mary Gordon Stevens, who talked about losing her mother.

"I don't cry every day like I used to, but my pain is still there," she said. "I lost my champion in life. I lost my best friend, and I lost my family. My mother was a good mother."

"It's impacted me immeasurably," she added. "The pain is inside, and it's something that I'm never going to get over."

Longtime family friends of Salentine testified on his behalf.

Paul Erickson said Salentine was like a son to him and that he thought it was out of character for him to rob or kill anyone.

Patricia Stevens Man found guilty in 74-year-old's beating death

Defense attorney Mike Howell admitted during the trial that Salentine is bi-polar and was a crack-cocaine addict at the time of Steven's death.

Salentine had been clean for five years, Howell said, but his life began to unravel in spring 2010, and he relapsed.

Howell said his client went to Stevens' home to steal money to support his addiction and beat her with a tire wrench when she caught him in the act.

"He's not the person we've known for so many years. This is totally out of character," Erickson's wife, Arlene Erickson said. "Hopefully, the jury will see or hear from the people what he really is like and grant him life, instead of the death penalty."

Salentine's father had no comment afterward, only saying, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Stevens family."

The hearing is expected to continue next week.


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  • bitemedoughboy Oct 29, 2012

    I agree with Lightfoot3.

  • Lightfoot3 Oct 29, 2012

    "The jury must now decide whether Salentine should face the death penalty in the case" - article

    If he's really guilty, not only should he face it, but the death penalty should be carried out!

  • yachtman Oct 26, 2012

    "And that would matter why???? Makes no difference to me if he was drunk, stoned, whatever-he MURDERED someone period, end of story"

    Well Scubagirl, the reason it matters is that the law defines numerous different homicide related crimes - first degree, second degree, manslaughter, et. al. They have specific defining criteria, and the jury's job is to sort all that out. A history of drug addiction and/or mental illness can be important in making the distinction. Put another way, do you think the punishment for these crimes should all be the same?
    1) someone planning for days to kill someone in order to take their money
    2) someone stoned out of their mind killing someone impulsively when caught during a burglary
    3) a man killing the man he catches his wife with in their bedroom
    4) A schizophrenic kills someone because of a delusional belief that the victim is about to destroy the world.
    5) a man who kills under duress believing that someone he cares about will otherwise be killed.

  • paultaylorsr100 Oct 26, 2012

    Scbagirl I like your thinking more and more! Logic.

  • paultaylorsr100 Oct 26, 2012

    She dies and he gets to live? Where's the logic.

  • dogluv3r Oct 26, 2012

    My heart goes out to both these families.

  • Scubagirl Oct 26, 2012


  • Just the facts mam Oct 26, 2012

    Thank you WRAL for the results of a person arrested for a crime. Too often the arrest makes the news, but that is the last the public hears about it - rarely does the public hear what the courtroom verdict is, or what the punishment is.

  • Weetie Oct 26, 2012

    Scubagirl, You are right. And as long as we blame crimes on drugs, alcohol and "I was an abused child" it's never going to change. There is NO excuse for taking another person's life.

  • keylacooper Oct 26, 2012

    prayers goes to the stevens family.