Suspect In Manchester Murders Bound Over To Grand Jury
MANCHESTER, Tenn. – The case against a former U.S. Army recruiter has been bound over to the grand jury, charged with first degree murder in the deaths of a Manchester woman and her two young boys.
30-year-old Matthew Perkins appeared in court during a preliminary hearing Friday morning, accused of killing 26-year-old Stephanie Hershman and her sons, 3-year-old Jathan and 23-month-old Jaylon.
The judge sent the case to the grand jury, where it will be heard in January.
Coffee County district attorney investigator Billy Cook testified that Perkins admitted to the killings, but he has since recanted and insists he did not commit the murders.
Perkins' family members said he had been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, but during Friday's hearing, there was no mention of PTSD. Instead, investigators said Perkins admitted to losing control of himself after giving Hershman a dose of morphine.
"He said she looked bad. She looked like a bad person. He said at that point right then and there he knew what he had to do," said Cook.
Sheriff's investigator Lauren Nettles said she found the bodies stuffed in trash bags inside a bedroom closet in Hershman's home.
"I entered through the front door of the living room was my first observation. There was an odor of what I recognized to be a decomposing body," said Nettles.
Officials who responded to the scene in September said blood was found outside the house.
"It's just the worst thing we've ever had to deal with. It's the worst one we've had. We have murders, but we've not anything where there's children involved like this. It's been terrible," said Chief Ross Simmons with the Manchester Police Department. "This is the most tragic thing that's ever happened in Coffee County."
Detective Butch Stewart with the Manchester Police Department said Perkins was arrested after a 30-minute standoff at a Tullahoma motel - about 10 miles away from the home.
"He advised me that he knew my tricks and tactics, he's been on my side before. I asked him what he meant by that he said he was in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Jason Kennedy with the Tullahoma Police.
Perkins served at least one overseas tour of duty. Family members said he may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"If he did this, something inside of him broke," said Perkins' stepfather Terry Soenkensen at the arraignment days later.
Both Soenkensen and Perkins' sister, Teri Lynn, insist Perkins was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD after returning from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008.
"I definitely think he had post traumatic stress. I was trying to get him to get help and he was afraid if he got help, the army would throw him out," Soenkensen said.
"All the doctors want to do is put him on drugs. They didn't want to help him. They just wanted to put him on pills," Teri Lynn added.
NewsChannel 5 spoke to retired 1st Sgt. Patrick Lisbon, who served with Perkins in Afghanistan in the 25th infantry.
"He was a great guy, good leader, looked out for his guys, look out for his platoon," said Lisbon.
"When we got deployed to Afghanistan, we got ambushed one day, and him and I basically... I kind of feel he saved my life that day and I saved his, just one of those day where you didn't have a good day on a mission," Lisbon said.
Perkins had an intimate relationship with Hershman, but it was not clear if they were still together. He had been separated from his wife for a year.
Perkins was assigned as an Army recruiter in Tullahoma since 2008.
Perkins faces three counts of first degree murder. Prosecutors said it was too early to decided whether they will pursue the death penalty.