Matthew Hutcheson, left, leans in to confer with his court-appointed attorney David Braswell during the second day of his trial Tuesday at the Nash County Courthouse in Nashville.
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Telegram photo / Emma Tannenbaum

Matthew Hutcheson, left, leans in to confer with his court-appointed attorney David Braswell during the second day of his trial Tuesday at the Nash County Courthouse in Nashville.

Jury finds Hutcheson guilty of second degree murder

By Darla Slipke

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NASHVILLE – After two days of testimony and approximately two hours of deliberation Thursday, a Nash County jury found 29-year-old Matthew Hutcheson guilty of second-degree murder for the 2011 death of Duwone Vondel Parker.

Judge Thomas H. Lock sentenced Hutcheson to a term of approximately 12 years to 15 years for second-degree murder. The sentencing came nearly two years after Parker’s body was found on March 2, 2011. A man who was walking his dog spotted Parker’s body in a wooded area near the 3600 block of Greystone Drive. 

Parker, 32, of Rocky Mount, died of a gunshot wound to the neck, according to a medical examiner who testified in court earlier this week. His body had been wrapped in plastic that was secured with Duct tape and tie-down straps. Parker’s body also had been burned.

Prosecutors had asked the jury to find Hutcheson guilty of first-degree murder. The judge instructed jurors they could return a verdict of guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of second-degree murder or not guilty.

In order for the jury to find Hutcheson guilty of first-degree murder, the state had to prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the killing was done with malice and after premeditation and deliberation. Second-degree murder differs from first-degree murder because it does not involve premeditation and deliberation.

On Thursday, the jury also found Hutcheson guilty of discharging a firearm into an occupied building, a felony.

The judge sentenced Hutcheson to a minimum of five years for that charge.

The second sentence will begin at the expiration of the first sentence, the judge said. In total, Hutcheson is facing a minimum of 17 years for both felonies.

He also is required to pay $4,952 for Parker’s funeral expenses, the judge said.

Hutcheson spoke briefly before the sentencing Thursday afternoon.

“I’m truly sorry for the pain that I’ve caused,” he said. “If I could take it back, I would.”

Parker’s father also spoke before the sentencing Thursday. He said he forgives Hutcheson.

“I hope and I pray for him,” Parker’s father said.

He said he hopes the system finds a way to get Hutcheson the help he needs. 

“I wish the best for him and also his family,” Parker’s father said.

He also said he prays for his son’s children.

Members of Parker’s family and Hutcheson’s family, who were in court every day during the trial, cried as the jury’s verdict was read. 

During the course of the trial, which started Monday with jury selection, jurors heard testimony from nearly two dozen different witnesses, including medical experts, investigators, a firearms expert, a friend of Parker’s, Hutcheson’s mother and a forensic scientist. Prosecutors worked to piece together details surrounding what happened between Feb. 25, 2011, when a friend of Parker’s said he last saw Parker leaving a house on Raleigh Road with Hutcheson, and March 2, 2011, when Parker’s body was discovered.

Police matched receipts from purchases made at Walmart and Home Depot on Feb. 26, 2011 to an EBT card and a credit card that were in Hutcheson’s wallet. They contend that surveillance videos from the stores show Parker and Hutcheson leaving Walmart together just before 3:30 a.m. Feb. 26, 2011, and Hutcheson purchasing plastic from Home Depot that evening.

Three people who lived near Charleston Court, where Hutcheson was living with his mom before he was arrested, testified that they heard two series of gunshots at approximately 5:30 a.m. Feb. 26, 2011.

Police said they found a 9 mm handgun, a butane lighter and evidence of blood in Hutcheson’s truck. A forensic scientist who works for the N.C. State Crime Lab testified that she was able to match a partial DNA profile obtained from a swabbing of Hutcheson’s truck bed to Parker’s DNA profile. She said she also was able to match DNA profiles obtained from swabbings of a trash can outside Hutcheson’s home and a rug inside the home to Parker’s DNA profile.

Defense attorney David Braswell said Hutcheson had a severe addiction to drugs and alcohol that affected his ability to reason and think straight. He told jurors during his opening statement earlier this week to imagine waking up from a drug-induced, alcoholic binge and panicking when they found their friend dead. 

Medical experts and Hutcheson’s mother testified during the trial that Hutcheson has a history of substance abuse problems. A clinical psychologist and a forensic psychiatrist both testified that they believe Hutcheson’s ability to control his impulses, to think clearly and rationally and to weigh the consequences of his actions were significantly impaired on or about Feb. 25, 2011.

Prosecutors contended that the crime was a “cold-blooded killing.” They argued Thursday that actions they allege Hutcheson took after Parker’s death, including cleaning the rug in his house, buying plastic, “mummifying” Parker’s body and setting it on fire, showed an ability to think and plan.

Hutcheson has entered a notice of appeal.