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Charges bound over in homicide

Louk to stand trial in death of cousin

BEDFORD — Magisterial District Judge Brian Baker bound over to court 10 of the 11 charges in a Bedford man’s criminal homicide case Wednesday afternoon.

Derek Edward Ashley Louk, 29, will face trial on criminal homicide and related charges in the death of his cousin Tyler John Matthai, 28, in April.

During the preliminary hearing, District Attorney Lesley Childers-Potts called State Police Trooper Nickolas Luciano and another witness to testify.

Luciano said that he was working on May 11 when an anonymous tip was received about a possible homicide, but an exact date for the crime was not given. When he began tracking down the victim to determine if he was dead or just missing, Luciano learned that no one had been in contact with Matthai since around the end of March or beginning or April.

Luciano contacted Children and Youth Services to get next-of-kin information for Matthai and was able to contact a family member. He asked the female family member if they could meet to speak, and she agreed, only to call back and ask if Matthai was dead.

Luciano asked why she would ask that, and the family member said she had just talked to a witness who told her that Matthai had been killed.

Luciano had given the family member no indication that Matthai might have been deceased.

Witness interviewed

Luciano testified that he met the witness for a formal interview on May 13.

The witness told Luciano that a woman she knew had come to her residence, asking for help with moving and had confided in her that Matthai was dead.

The woman said that she and Matthai had been fighting when Louk shot Matthai in the right arm and, after receiving medical treatment from the woman, Matthai took drugs, overdosed and died.

The witness said she was told that Louk and the woman disposed of Matthai’s body and that there were no remains.

The witness also told Luciano that she did not know what drugs Matthai was supposed to have overdosed on or how long he had been abusing drugs.

Luciano testified that was the only interview he had conducted with the witness.

Based on that witness statement, Luciano obtained a search warrant for the Louk residence, in which he lived alone, to determine if Matthai had been there.

After police officers established a perimeter around the residence, Louk exited his home and was detained by police, Luciano said.

The search warrant was then executed about midnight on Saturday, May 14, while Luciano and Officer Luke Hoover escorted Louk to the police barracks for questioning.

Luciano said that during transportation, Louk “didn’t say anything” and “seemed fine at the moment.” There was no indication that Louk was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

Luciano testified that he was not a part of the search of the Louk residence but that “a little” heroin had been located in the house. He was unsure if any alcohol had been found.

At the police station, Luciano read Louk his rights and interviewed him.

During that interview, Luciano said that Louk admitted to shooting Matthai on April 26.

Luciano testified that Louk said Matthai and the woman were engaged in an altercation when Louk warned Matthai to “back off.” When Matthai didn’t, Louk shot Matthai in the left arm and again in the back around the kidney area.

Body burned, buried

During the interview, Louk told Luciano that he knew Matthai was dead and dragged his body to “a large hole with tires,” burned the body and buried the remains.

Luciano testified that Louk then drew a diagram of his residence, where everyone was standing during the incident and marked where Matthai’s remains could be found.

A forensic anthropologist from Mercyhurst University was able to exhume the remains, which were positively identified through dental records as Matthai.

During the interview, Louk also told Luciano that he had used an AR-15 rifle to shoot Matthai and that it was kept under his bed at home, Luciano said.

While searching the residence, police found the rifle and sent it for ballistics tests and to be fingerprinted.

Following the interview with Louk, another search warrant was executed on his cellphone, Luciano testified.

From the data extracted from Louk’s cellphone, Luciano learned of searches that Louk had attempted to delete. Those searches inquired how hot gasoline and rubber burn, if bones burn and whether or not bones sink or float in water, Luciano testified.

A conversation between Louk and the woman was also found on Louk’s phone from around the time of the incident, Luciano said.

On May 14, Luciano located and detained the woman allegedly involved in the shooting incident, he said.

The woman gave no statement to police and requested an attorney, who advised her to not answer any questions, Luciano testified.

Law enforcement has not been in contact with the woman since, Luciano said.

Following Luciano’s testimony, the witness that the woman allegedly confided in was called.

The witness was able to identify Louk in the room and said that she knew him through family.

The witness said that on May 13, she went to the police barracks to talk to Luciano and told him that the family member had contacted her, wanting to know if she had talked to the woman. The witness said she told the family member that she hadn’t that week, after which the family member asked her if Matthai was dead.

The witness testified that she didn’t know why the family member had asked her that. She also said that she didn’t “have much” to tell Luciano about Matthai, just that the woman had confided in her that Matthai was dead.

The witness said the woman told her what happened while they were in the woman’s car on May 3 and 4 but doesn’t recall being given a date for the alleged homicide.

The witness said that the woman told her that she and Matthai were at Louk’s residence and that Matthai kept hitting her. The woman told the witness that Matthai had her “around the neck,” that Louk shot Matthai in the arm and that Matthai then “did even more drugs” and overdosed, the witness testified.

The witness said that the woman told her that the incident had happened in Louk’s house and that the body was gone. When the witness asked the woman what she and Louk had done with the body, the woman said “you don’t want to know,” the witness said.

The woman helped get rid of the body and said it “was gone and nothing would be found,” the witness testified.

The woman also told the witness that she and Louk had agreed to tell everyone that Matthai had “gone back to Baltimore.”

Prior to May 8, the witness said she had regularly been in contact with the woman, seeing her about twice a week. The witness said that the woman would tell her that Matthai was abusive, but the witness never saw any signs or indications of abuse.

“I never saw a mark on her,” the witness said.

On cross examination, the witness said that the woman was known to lie and that she had not initially believed her when she was told Matthai was dead.

“She lies about everything,” the witness said. “I did not believe her when she came to me.”

No witnesses were called by the defense.

During closing arguments, Louk’s attorney Michael Anthony Filia asked Judge Baker to consider dismissing the criminal homicide charge and let the other charges up to jury discretion. He argued that the only piece of evidence indicating Louk killed Matthai was Louk’s own statement and that the witness had testified that Matthai actually overdosed.

DA Childers-Potts said that Louk’s statement wasn’t the only evidence against him. Other information that pointed toward homicide was the deleted search history on Louk’s cellphone, which “directly correlated with what had happened to the body,” she said.

“Those things match, in part, to the defendant’s statement and the physical evidence,” Childers-Potts said. “It’s not only the defendant’s statement tying the charges to him — that’s inaccurate.”

Prior to making her closing arguments, Childers-Potts asked to withdraw one count of aggravated assault.

During his testimony, Luciano had stated that the second count of assault and reckless endangerment was related to when Louk shot Matthai with the woman in close proximity. Judge Baker agreed to the count’s withdrawal.

Following the closing arguments, Baker said that based on the testimony given, the remaining 10 charges against Louk would be bound over to court.

Mirror Staff Writer Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.

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