MAYS LANDING — An Egg Harbor City mother was shot and killed because she was a snitch, the man who says he helped the woman's killer find her testified Wednesday.
But Dontay Matthews told many stories about what happened the night Deanna Downs was shot dead Oct. 16, 2010, near her apartment in the Harbor City complex, defense attorneys pointed out during cross-examination.
Rafael Olmo and Mario Adams are on trial for murder in Downs' killing.
She was allegedly targeted because she witnessed Olmo kill one man and wound another in a shooting one year earlier in the same complex, according to the charges.
"I kept a lookout for Deanna Downs," Matthews said. "She was supposed to testify against him in court."
Matthews was Downs’ crack dealer, he said, selling to her in about $5 packages sometimes multiple times in a day.
On Sept. 30, 2010 — his 21st birthday — Matthews said Olmo came to him and asked that he keep an eye on Downs.
Matthews was given a throwaway cell phone to call Olmo or Adams to let them know when Downs was alone, according to the testimony. And, he was offered money.
If he didn't call for a while, he said he would get a call: "What's going on out there? Are you doing your job? Are you keeping your eyes open?"
The night of Oct. 16, 2010, he said he made two calls — one to Olmo then a second to Adams — saying that Downs was outside alone. About 15 minutes later, he heard a shot, and looked out to see a dark figure running from the body.
He said he knew it was Adams by the way he ran.
"I played basketball with him, hung out with him," Matthews told Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Maher. "I know the way he moves."
But when questioned in the killing April 4, 2011, Matthews at first denied even hearing the gunshot.
His interview with investigators was 246 pages long. Most of it, he admits now, was lies.
"I went back and forth between the truth and lying," he said under cross-examination.
"I don't even know who freaking killed that girl," Olmo's attorney, Stephen Funk, read from the April 4, 2010, statement.
Funk said instead, Matthews was given the choice of being a witness or a suspect. His plea carries a 10-year term compared to as much as life in prison if convicted of murder.
Adams' attorney, Michael Schreiber, grilled Matthews for hours on the inconsistencies not only between his testimony and the earlier statement, but the changes he made within that interview.
"You were all over the place in the first statement, weren't you?" he asked.
"Yeah, like I said, I was lying," Matthews replied. "I was scared."
"Would it surprise you to hear you've lied 31 times so far and we're only 145 pages in?" Schreiber asked.
He questioned how -- if Adams was the killer -- he called Matthews 15 minutes after the shooting and came to pick him up for beers about 20 minutes after that, dressed in light pants and a sweater, showing no signs of the black clothing the shooter allegedly had on.
The first thing Adams asked Matthews after arriving at the apartment complex where police had descended was, "What happened?"
A strange question, Schreiber said, for the person who did the shooting.
Matthews said Adams later admitted to the killing, saying,"I'm on the street for murder one, and nobody knows."
Court adjourned before Schreiber finished his cross-examination. Due to scheduling conflicts and Monday's Presidents Day holiday, trial will resume next Tuesday.
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