Frederick Matting Murder: What Happened to Patricia Matting and James Smith?

Gunshots ringing out one early morning in a neighborhood in Cordova, Tennessee, led the authorities to the area, only for them to find a dead body. That day, Frederick Matting was brutally murdered in what seemed like a targeted attack. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Dead of Night: The Darkest Hour’ focuses on an apparent plot to have Frederick murdered and the killer’s testimony that became crucial to the prosecution. So, let’s find out more about what happened then, shall we?

How Did Frederick Matting Die?

Frederick Jerome Matting Sr. was born in December 1958. He was a lance corporal in the US Marines and, at the time of the incident, lived in Cordova with his wife of three decades, Patricia Matting. The 51-year-old seemed to have everything at the outset: a happy family life and a job as a machinist. But his return from work during the early morning hours of November 2, 2010, was the last trip he would ever make.

Image Credit: Eric in Memphis/Find a Grave

At around 4:30 AM, several people in Frederick’s neighborhood called the authorities after hearing gunshots. When the police arrived, they found Frederick in the middle of the road in a pool of blood about a block away from his house. He had been shot in the pelvis with a shotgun and suffered multiple stab wounds to the head, neck, and torso. An autopsy later revealed that Frederick had broken ribs and fractures in the right forearm as part of a vicious attack.

Who Killed Frederick Matting?

The authorities canvassed the area and learned that a neighbor witnessed one man standing over another on the ground after the gunshots. After that, the shooter had left in a getaway vehicle parked in the driveway of an empty house. The car was later identified as a Ford F-150. From the crime scene, it seemed like Frederick was confronted in his driveway before being chased onto the road, where he eventually died. The police felt that, through all of this, it was odd that Patricia didn’t wake up until the police knocked on her door.

Patricia told the authorities that Frederick had taken a late night shift and was supposed to come home around that time. But upon learning her husband was killed, she had no clue who could have done it. The investigation revealed that Frederick had an affair with Mary, another married woman. But Mary said her husband didn’t know about it, and he was ruled out. Later, the authorities began looking at Patricia as a possible suspect because of her nonchalant behavior after Frederick’s murder. Phone records revealed that she had made several calls to Carbondale, Illinois.

Upon further digging, it was revealed that Patricia had rented an apartment and had been having an affair in addition to setting up a transportation business despite being on disability from the US Postal Service. On being questioned, she admitted knowing about Frederick’s affair but said they were trying to work on their marriage. But when confronted with the evidence of her other apartment, Patricia changed her story and said, “Fred does his own thing. The women, partying, sleeping around, and all that. When you run the streets like he run the streets, anything can happen.”

Eventually, the authorities were led to Patricia’s brother, James “Zell” Smith. He was close to his sister, and according to his wife, Millie, he would do anything for Patricia. Phone records showed them together the day before the murder, and James had a Ford F-150. He lived in Milwaukee then and initially claimed to have left the state only for Frederick’s funeral. James initially claimed that his sister had told him about how Frederick was physically and verbally abusive, leading him to want to confront Frederick on the night of the murder.

But James said that when he got to the Matting home, he saw two men attacking Frederick. James added, “They confronted him. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ And they pulled a gun on me. And he said, ‘Look, one word and all this gonna be done with.’ I panicked, and I left.” Upon being pressed further, James owned up to what happened. He claimed that Patricia asked him to kill her husband. According to James, she said, “I could shoot him myself, but do you want your sister to go to jail for life?” So, he drove the 650 miles from Milwaukee with a shotgun and waited for Frederick to return from work.

James wore stocking for a mask, a hat, and a hood, but his brother-in-law recognized him. A struggle ensued after James fired twice, missing the first time. Frederick pulled out a knife, but James wrestled it away, stabbing him multiple times. After that, he hit Frederick with the shotgun. The 51-year-old machinist then took off, eventually collapsing in the middle of the road while James got away. Furthermore, phone records showed that Patricia and James’ phones were off on the night of November 1, 2010, and were not turned back on until 7 am on November 2.

Patricia Matting is Now on Probation, While James Smith Died in Prison

James Smith agreed to testify against Patricia Matting and another prison inmate in exchange for a lenient sentence. But Patricia’s first trial was declared a mistrial after the jury was deadlocked. During the proceedings, she and her children testified that Frederick was physically abusive. In August 2013, Patricia pleaded guilty to lesser charges of reckless homicide and false reporting.

Patricia received an eight-year sentence with the possibility of parole followed by ten years of probation. She has since been released from prison and remains on probation, reporting to the Memphis, Tennessee, office. In November 2013, James pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and, in exchange for his cooperation in two cases, received a sentence of 13 and a half years without the possibility of parole. But James died while in prison on September 18, 2018, at the age of 54. However, the cause of death is not public knowledge.

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