An 18-year-old suspect in the slaying of a Benton City man cracked a smile Wednesday afternoon during his first appearance in a Kennewick courtroom.
Noah M. Matlack pleaded innocent in Benton County Superior Court to first-degree murder for the Sept. 8 stabbing death of Michael Edwards.
But before his case was called, Matlack sat in the jury box and looked at a woman in the audience, giving her a wink and a smile.
Matlack had been fighting extradition from Oregon following his Sept. 9 arrest while waiting for a bus at the Pilot Travel Center in Stanfield. He was being held in the Umatilla County jail in Pendleton.
However, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber approved Matlack’s return to Benton County after reviewing an extradition warrant issued by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
Matlack was brought back Tuesday and booked into the Benton Count jail at 1:16 p.m.
His trial now is scheduled for Nov. 18. He’s being represented by attorney Alexandria Sheridan.
Matlack and Noel Anthony Gonzalez are accused of killing Edwards, 55, in the parking lot of the Assembly of God church in Benton City.
Edwards was stabbed with a knife several times about 11:30 p.m. Sept. 8. His body was found by a neighbor about eight hours later after it was dragged behind a shed.
The Benton City teens reportedly were trying to flee the Northwest, possibly to California, when a Stanfield police officer approached them after learning they were trying to sell some rare coins at the truck stop.
When asked about the coins, Matlack told the officer he was given them by an older man in Benton City, according to court documents. But when he was asked, “Did somebody die over this?” Matlack started crying and asked for an attorney, documents said.
Edwards’ home reportedly was ransacked after his death, and his safe was pried open with knives. Items taken included coins and a gun.
Gonzalez, 19, voluntarily returned from Pendleton and pleaded innocent last month. His trial also is set for Nov. 18.
Matlack and Gonzalez each have bail set at $1 million.
A third Benton City teen, Tyler Lynn Isom, is accused of letting the teens stay at his house after the fatal stabbing, arranging a ride for them to Oregon and keeping a stolen .22-caliber Luger semi-automatic pistol and other property.
Isom faces a Nov. 4 trial for first-degree rendering criminal assistance and possessing a stolen gun. The 19-year-old is in custody on $25,000 bail.
Edwards’ brother, James, previously told the Herald that he believes Isom may have lured Michael to the church where he was killed, and then the three suspects returned to the mobile home to party and steal money, prescription drugs and the coin collection.
Michael Edwards was crippled by degenerative arthritis of the spine, and reportedly used medical marijuana.
An acquaintance of Matlack’s told a Benton County sheriff’s detective that Matlack was angry with Edwards and claimed the older man owed him $2,500, court documents said.
Matlack said several days before the killing that he felt like bashing in Edwards’ head and sticking a knife in his jaw, the acquaintance told investigators according to documents.
Phone records show calls between Edwards and Matlack, and blood was found on the teen’s pants after his arrest, authorities said.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; email@example.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer