BRADENTON – Eugene Matthews will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for the shooting death of Rebecca Rawson on Jan. 10, 2017.
On Thursday, April 19, Judge Brian Iten sentenced the 84-year-old Parrish resident to life in prison with a 25-year minimum for felony second-degree murder with a firearm. He also sentenced him to 30 years on each of two counts of felony attempted murder in the second degree with a firearm. Each count also had a 25-year minimum attached to it.
Rawson’s daughter, Kathryn, who was with her mother when she was mortally wounded by a gunshot, spoke before the sentencing decision was ready by Judge Iten.
“You have taken away a beautiful woman, my mother, my everything,” Rawson said after she took the witness stand. “I will never feel her kiss my head or call me her honey bunny.”
After she returned to her seat, she was heard sobbing.
Matthews took the stand, saying any sentence would be a death sentence to him because of his age. He alleged the incident started as a home invasion.
According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, on the day of the shooting, Rebecca Rawson, her daughter and brother-in-law, Rodney, were driving to Matthews’ home in Parrish to pick up Rawson’s dog, which Matthews had been watching. When she pulled up to the house she was greeted by Juanita Sills, who also lived in the home. Rodney Rawson called for the dog, which came running outside. Rodney Rawson picked up the dog and headed toward the car. Matthews then emerged from the house and fired two rounds from a pistol into the air. He fired a third round toward the car and it hit Rebecca Rawson in the face. The vehicle subsequently backed up and crashed into a gate. Rodney Rawson tried to get the pistol out of Matthews’ hand and another round was fired before the incident ended.
At the hearing, Matthews call Kathryn Rawson a “spoiled brat” who got her mother killed. He said Rebecca Rawson was hit by a bullet that ricocheted.
Matthews called the court a “kangaroo court” and talked about how he felt his home was being invaded and he had to stand his ground, referring to a law that allows people to use force to protect their property.
Matthews then talked about his military duty where he earned two Purple Hearts and two Silver Stars and spilled two gallons of his blood.
After Judge Iten announced the sentence, Matthews was returned to jail. He has 30 days to appeal.