“I miss you Sabrina. I love you so much,” Sharida Matthews sobbed as she taped a reward poster to a pole near her home in Cambria Heights. She still retains hope that the person who murdered Sabrina, her youngest daughter, will be brought to justice.
“My daughter was so sweet,” Matthews said. “I never thought in my whole life that this could happen.”
Sabrina Matthews was found dead in her bedroom on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008 at approximately 12:30 pm. The 14-year-old was naked from the waist down and her throat had been slashed. The crime remains unsolved.
The Matthews family wants to rekindle interest in the case, so they gathered with friends and local officials on Friday to blanket their quiet neighborhood with posters advertising a new reward of $22,000, recently increased by the mayor, for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the crime.
“Any mother and father would love to have a child like her,” Matthews said of Sabrina. “Every day when I came home from work, she would ask me, ‘Mommy how was your day?’ Every day of her life, she would say ‘Mommy, I love you.’ She was caring and loving. She was a wonderful child.”
Valerie Bell, the mother of Sean Bell, the Jamaica man slain by police officers in 2006, also attended to show her support, frequently hugging Matthews and holding her hand as the distraught mother broke down in tears.
“I am with her and for her in her time of need,” Bell said.
Matthews contends that police working on the case in the 105th Precinct, who are primarily Caucasian, are not being diligent in their pursuit of the killer because they are unsympathetic to Jamaican Americans.
“I’m not a racist,” Matthews said. “I love white people. I don’t hate anyone. But what other explanation could there be?”
Bell, whose son’s death at the hands of police outraged the black community in Queens and elsewhere, agreed that race is often a factor in murder investigations.
“I hate to say it, but in general, when a Caucasian person is killed they are working on it, you hear about it in the paper more than you hear about any Afro-American, and you should know it,” Bell said. “I don’t know what this society has come to.”
The NYPD disagrees.
“There is an exhaustive investigation underway involving scores of leads and interviews,” the deputy commissioner for public information, Paul Browne, said in an email. “Detailing investigative leads would jeopardize the progress of the case. The Matthews family can be assured that the Police Department is doing all it can in identifying and bringing to justice anyone responsible for Sabrina Matthews death.”
At first, the police suspected the girl’s father, Livingston Matthews, of committing the crime since he was the one who discovered her body upon his arrival home from work that day. But he was never charged and, according to the family, is no longer a suspect.
“It made me feel like a victim,” he said of the initial suspicion.
His wife, who has been married to her husband for nearly three decades and has known him since childhood, said he is a peaceful man and would never harm anyone.
“They should have focused more on finding the real killer instead of blaming my husband,” she said. “We told them to go around to the school and question the neighbors, but they never did.”
The devastated mother said that when she tells people that she is still searching for her daughter’s killer, they often are surprised because they assumed, based on the media coverage, that her husband was responsible.
“It was on TV that they suspected the dad but they never cleared it. They never said that he was no longer a suspect,” she explained. “That’s a disgrace.”
As Sharida Matthews handed out flyers to her fellow Cambria Heights residents, many offered their condolences.
“I really pray about it because I thought this was a gruesome murder,” Karen Pinnock said. “I have children, and I am really concerned and I hope this person will be brought to justice.”
“I can’t understand how after all of this time there is nothing being done,” Barbara Cunningham said. “They have all this forensics and all this equipment and they can’t find this person.”
City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) also met with Sharida Matthews at the end of the flyer distribution march, and made an announcement to shoppers at the Fambria Food Center on Linden Boulevard, asking them to report any information about the murder to the police.
“This type of crime affects the entire community,” Comrie said. “We can’t have unsolved crimes of this magnitude, where it’s a home invasion, and someone is murdered and no one is talking about it.”
The mayor’s office is providing $10,000 toward the reward, contingent on arrest and conviction of the perpetrator. The Police Department is providing the same amount on the same basis. The other $2,000 is offered by the Crime Stoppers unit; that portion only requires arrest and indictment.
Anyone with information about the killing is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 577-TIPS (8477). Tips can also be submitted at nypdcrimestoppers.com or by text to 274637 (CRIMES), then TIP577. Information will be kept confidential.