Shady Side man found guilty of second-degree murder in double homicide

Phil Davis
Contact Reporterpdavis@capgaznews.com

A Shady Side man was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder Friday in the shooting deaths of two people in June 2017.

Kirk Byron Matthews, 57, was convicted of the two murder counts as well as several weapons offenses related to the killings of Leslie Michael Smith, 48, and his live-in companion, Linda Lynn McKenzie, 44. He was convicted by an Anne Arundel County jury in Circuit Court.

McKenzie and Smith were found shot dead in the woods near Scott Town and Nick roads in Shady Side last year.

Matthews was indicted on two counts of common law murder and various weapons charges in September 2017, which gave the jury the option to find Matthews guilty of either manslaughter, first-degree murder or second-degree murder.

Prosecutors said Matthews shot the two with a shotgun and dragged their bodies into the woods after an altercation between Smith and McKenzie.

Before they were killed, prosecutors said the argument led to Smith driving McKenzie’s car into a ditch, which prompted a police response. Prosecutors argued it angered Matthews, a longtime resident who acted as an enforcer for an “open air drug market” in the community.

Defense attorneys had pointed to a lack of physical evidence in the case, including that a murder weapon was never recovered. During closing arguments Thursday, Matthews’ attorney also questioned the motives of the prosecution’s witnesses, some of whom admitted to being inebriated the night of the killings.

In a statement, State’s Attorney Wes Adams said, “While the defense did an admirable job advocating on behalf of their client, ultimately Mr. Matthews needed to be held accountable.”

“We are grateful for this opportunity to provide justice to the families of these two victims,” Adams wrote.

An attorney for Matthews did not return a call for comment Friday.

The case looked to depend heavily on witness statements, as DNA and gunshot residue analysis did not link Matthews to the scene of the crime.

During the trial, Elizabeth Palan, Matthews’ attorney, also accused one of the prosecution’s witnesses of being “an opportunist” who’d asked multiple times for reward money before providing his testimony.

Assistant State’s Attorney Kelly Poma spent much of the trial painting the picture of Matthews as a man with significant debts he repaid by doing favors for drug dealers in the area, including serving as their protection.

Poma relied on surveillance footage of the area, which was captured by a camera placed on an electricity pole near where the killings happened the day before as part of a drug investigation.

She said Matthews became angry as he watched Smith and McKenzie argue, eventually becoming fed up when the two continued to fight even after police had helped them pull McKenzie’s car out of the ditch.

“Twenty minutes later, the defendant (Matthews) had finally had enough,” Poma said. “They honestly never stood a chance.”

But Matthews’ attorneys asked the jury to be skeptical of witnesses’ testimony supporting the prosecution’s narrative.

Bethany Skopp, also Matthews’ attorney, said during the trial that the prosecution’s witnesses have “an angle to play when they talk to the police,” with a desire to divert attention away from their drug dealing activities.

Matthews faces up to 40 years in prison on each second-degree murder count and additional time for the several weapons offenses. No sentencing date was available Friday.

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