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Man who abandoned body gets 22 years

Man who abandoned body gets 22 years
JOE LAMBE
PUBLICATION: Kansas City Star, The (MO)

DATE: July 20, 2005

Page: B1
A drug offender left a woman’s body to decompose in his Jeep Cherokee. He then lied to her parents as they searched to find her.

Tuesday, that indifference sent Matthew C. Davis, 39, to prison.

Jackson County Circuit Judge J.D. Williamson sentenced him to seven years for abandonment of the body and 15 more years for three unrelated counts of drug possession.

Davis, who previously had pleaded guilty, could have received to up to 52 years because of prior convictions for burglary, stealing and tampering. Yet the 22-year overall sentence shocked his defense lawyer, who had argued for a four-year term.

The case began June 6, 2004, when police found the decomposed body of Amber McGathey, 22, in Davis’ Cherokee parked in the City Market area.

Prosecutors believed McGathey had died four days earlier, when a witness saw a man wheeling a shopping cart with what appeared to be a body in it.

Davis told another witness that McGathey died of a drug overdose, according to court records. The medical examiner found opiates in her body and no other obvious cause of death.

McGathey’s family, friends and supporters packed a standing-room only courtroom for the sentencing.

Her father, Boyd McGathey, is a board member for the Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline. He told the judge of the agony the family members experienced as they searched for his daughter for days. He told how he called Davis, her boyfriend, who told him that Amber had driven off with a girlfriend.

To this day, McGathey said, Davis has never explained what happened.

“We don’t know if she was dead” when put in the Jeep, he said. “Maybe she’d be alive today if she got basic medical care.”

As the family searched and his daughter decomposed, Davis “went and picked up a girl in a bar and partied,” McGathey said.

He asked for a sentence of 52 years.

Dan Miller, assistant prosecutor, asked for that or at least 22 years.

“His life is just nothing but one crime after another, and there is no reason for it,” Miller said, adding that Davis lived on trust fund income of about $8,000 a month.

Miller said he especially wanted the seven-year maximum on the abandoning a body charge. “This young lady was allowed to rot in trash and maggots,” he said.

Defense lawyer John Picerno drew groans from the audience when he countered that “there are a lot of worse ways of disposing of a body.”

Picerno noted that prosecutors had previously offered Davis a plea deal for seven years, before Davis went on a drug binge and missed a court hearing.

Before imposing sentence, Williamson chided Davis for cruelly putting the family through days of suffering.

“I can’t think of anything worse than not knowing,” the judge said.

After sentencing, Picerno said he was shocked. “I can’t remember a stiffer sentence on a drug case,” he said.

Boyd McGathey said: “I think he got off pretty good. On the other hand, it will be a long time before he can do this to anyone else’s daughter.”

To reach Joe Lambe, call (816) 234-4314 or send e-mail to jlambe@kcstar.com.

First glance

Matthew C. Davis, 39, had left the body of Amber McGathey, 22, in his car for four days while her parents searched for her.

He said she had died of a drug overdose.