A 56-year-old man accused of killing two people in Shady Side in June faces a potential life sentence after an Anne Arundel County grand jury indicted him on two counts of first-degree murder.
Shady Side resident Kirk Byron Matthews now faces two counts of common law murder, which effectively charges him with manslaughter, second-degree murder and first-degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths of Linda Lynn McKenzie, 44, and Leslie Michael Smith, 48.
Before the upgrade in charges, Matthews had faced two counts of second-degree murder and a handful of related weapons charges. Prosecutors said Matthews shot the two and dragged them into a nearby field after getting into an argument with them around Scott Town Road on June 1.
While Matthews still faces the possibility spending the rest of his life in prison, charging him with common law murder allows the jury to entertain broader information as to Matthews’ involvement in the deaths.
Rather than requiring the jury to find Matthews guilty of non-premeditated murder, prosecutors can present their narratives and jurors will determine if they fit scenarios ranging from Matthews killing McKenzie and Smith after being provoked, to premeditated murder.
It’s unclear what the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office presented to the grand jury to warrant the upgrade in charges, as grand jury proceedings are not public.
The State’s Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the charges.
Police said in charging documents that McKenzie and Smith had argued after they drove their vehicle off the road and into a ditch when Matthews confronted them.
Matthews acted as an “enforcer” in the area where the two were found shot, prosecutors said, which was also known to be an area for drug sales. Witnesses told police he would regularly walk around the neighborhood with a shotgun, charging documents state.
When he confronted the two, he threatened them because of their behavior and told them to leave the neighborhood, court records show.
Police arrested Matthews on an unrelated weapons charge, as he is a convicted felon and police say they found him with a shotgun about two days after the murder as part of a drug investigation.
It wasn’t until September when police charged him with the shooting as he awaited trial on the weapons charges.