Jennifer Hill said she was shocked when a judge sentenced a Summerville man who confessed to killing both her daughter and a friend to a comparatively-low 55 years in prison last month.
Caleb Matlock was found guilty of murdering 18-year-old Dana Woods and her friend 22-year-old June Guerry in August 2012. Prosecutors said Matlock and another man had gotten a ride with the pair near Moncks Corner before killing both women and stealing Woods’ car. He eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of murder, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, armed robbery, and third-degree arson. The other man, Arthur Ray Chavis, has not yet had his case go to trial.
Circuit Judge Brooks Goldsmith sentenced Matlock to 55 years in prison — or, as Hill notes, roughly 27 years for each victim. Matlock had no previous convictions (although he had a previous charge of failure to stop for blue lights) and apologized in court before his sentence was handed down.
“I felt like I got hit in the stomach,” Hill told South Carolina Radio Network. “The judge might as well have walked up to me and punched me and said, ‘You know what, (Dana) wasn’t worth anything.”
Angry about what she considers a light sentence, Hill said she began researching what she could do to push for a change in the state’s mandatory minimum laws. In South Carolina, a murder conviction requires at least 30 total years in prison, but gives a judge discretion above that.