Suspects in Benton City murder have long histories with police

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 13, 2013 

Two Benton City teens accused of stabbing a disabled man to death during a robbery earlier this week had a history of run-ins with police and troubles at home and in school.

Noah Matlack, now 18, wanted people to think he was turning over a new leaf when he pleaded guilty in 2010 to shooting out car windows on North River Road in Benton City with a BB gun.

Matlack wrote a "letter of responsibility" for juvenile court, asking for a deferred sentence because he wanted to join the military when he turned 18 and become an honorable person.

"Next time I will choose to do the right thing," he wrote. "I will stand up for what I know is right, even if my friends won't like me anymore. I want to be a good example to people, not a bad one, even if I stand alone."

His mother, Megan Peters, wrote to the court that her son was involved with the youth ministry at his church, according to court documents. She wrote that she restricted his social activities and that his music, movies and video games were chosen carefully based on their ratings.

"I am greatly disappointed in my son's choice to participate in such a selfish action," she said at the time.

The plea brought a year's probation, 50 hours of community service and $1,462 in restitution, according to court documents.

But in March 2012, Matlack was back in court and pleaded guilty again to malicious mischief for damaging a wall at Kiona-Benton City High School.

A month later he was accused of stealing money from a charity change jar at school. That charge was dismissed in February, but court documents show that wasn't the only trouble he'd had at school.

A behavior report in middle school said he drew swastikas on his hands and showed friends a swastika made of tape. He made inappropriate gestures to a teacher and spit on the walls of an elevator, show court records.

In the eighth grade, Matlack simulated having sex with another student and brought a pocketknife to school, according to court documents.

"His behavior is a continual problem," the report said.

It's not clear if he finished high school, but he spent some time in a career training program for underprivileged youth in Curlew, called the Curlew Jobs Corps, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Matlack and Noel Anthony Gonzalez, 19, are charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Michael Edwards, 55, last Sunday night.

They were arrested Monday night after being approached by a police officer near a Stanfield, Ore., truck stop where they allegedly were trying to sell rare coins stolen from Edwards. Both are being held in the Umatilla County Jail.

On Friday, Matlack appeared in Umatilla District Court in Hermiston. Bail was set at $250,000 and an extradition hearing was scheduled for Oct. 17.

Gonzalez, who has yet to appear in court, also has several juvenile court convictions, including threats of violence and troubles with drugs and alcohol.

He first was arrested when he was 13, records show.

And just after his 14th birthday, he was caught with a deadly weapon in Franklin County.

Court documents show that he was placed on probation for the incident, but that his attendance rate for court hearings after that was "very poor."

Documents show his mother, Isabel Gonzalez, became frustrated with his refusal to live at home and abide by her rules.

In September 2008, a charge of marijuana possession of less than 40 grams was dropped as part of a diversion program. But by December of that year he pleaded guilty to a drug paraphernalia charge after being caught hiding a metal pipe with marijuana residue while at school.

A month later, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to felony harassment after he admitted to threatening to shoot and kill a man, according to court documents. Documents didn't say what the dispute was about. His sentence included a year of probation and 40 hours of community service.

Then Gonzalez pleaded guilty in February 2009 to stealing shoes from the Fred Meyer store in Richland, according to court documents. His sentence for that included two days in jail and 35 hours of community service.

Gonzalez also pleaded guilty to stealing an iPod music player in May 2010 at the skate park in Benton City, according to court documents. He was sentenced to three days in jail and six months community service.

The next year, Gonzalez twice had to pay $200 fines after being caught with alcohol.

Court documents in 2011 show he jumped from "one house to another" after being kicked out of his mother's and grandparents' homes.

Gonzalez had numerous probation violations after his convictions for failing to stay off drugs and alcohol, failing to attend school or keep a job, not staying with a parent or guardian and not completing his community service hours, according to court documents.

He spent time in the Sundown M Ranch drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Yakima, but was recommended for five days detention for failing to maintain contact with his probation officer.

Ki-Be officials confirmed Gonzalez had been a student but declined to talk more about him.

Herald records show a Noel Gonzalez was scheduled to graduate last May.

w Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543;; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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