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DC woman, 71, killed by man jailed for stalking her decades earlier after being released from prison

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A Washington DC woman was allegedly killed by an ex-con who began mercilessly stalking and beating her after serving two decades in prison for terrorizing the same woman – before he was freed earlier this year because of a COVID-19 outbreak at the jail. 

Sylvia Matthews, 71, was found unconscious and with serious head injuries in her Southwest Washington home on December 3 after prosecutors ignored charging  Michael Garrett, 66, in two attacks on Matthews in October.  

The two had met when she worked at a local prison where he was serving time before his release in 1998. Garrett soon began stalking her and was sent back to prison for 24 years in 1999 after being convicted for breaking into the same Elmira Street home where she was found dead last week.

71-year-old Sylvia Matthews (pictured) was taken to a local hospital and died from her serious head injuries after police arrived to her home on December 3

71-year-old Sylvia Matthews (pictured) was taken to a local hospital and died from her serious head injuries after police arrived to her home on December 3

Earlier that day neighbors called police at 7:30 am after someone smashed the windows of Matthews' car and tried to break into her basement

Earlier that day neighbors called police at 7:30 am after someone smashed the windows of Matthews’ car and tried to break into her basement

He was free to hound the woman again after being sprung on compassionate release in March due to a COVID-19 outbreak among inmates, despite The U.S. Attorney’s Office opposing his release, WUSA9.com reported. 

Within months he was accused of stalking and beating her again.

On October 7, Garrett was arrested at Matthews’s front door and charged with threatening her but prosecutors declined the case.

Two weeks later, on October 22, police said that Garrett beat Matthews outside her home, but prosecutors suspended prosecution for unknown reasons, WUSA9 reported.  

On the day of the killing, Matthews called police at around 7:30 am to report that Garrett was breaking into her car and attempted to break into her house, but by the time police arrived to the home Garrett was gone. 

Matthews then called police again at about 8:44 am to say she saw Garrett outside and she had him on the phone.

Police arrived and spoke to Garrett on Matthews’ phone and told him to leave her alone, WUSA9.com reported.

Hours later, police were called once again, this time by the same person who had been helping Matthews clean up broken glass from the earlier break-in after hearing a scuffle in the home.   

When police responded to the home, they found Garrett next to an unconscious, injured Matthews in the basement. 

Garrett allegedly told officers ‘he just got there’ and that Matthews had called him to come over because she believed that someone had broken into her home, court documents said.  

When police responded to the home they found Garrett next to an unconscious, injured Matthews (pictured)

When police responded to the home they found Garrett next to an unconscious, injured Matthews (pictured)

Police arrested Garrett at the scene and charged him with assault with intent to kill, initially labelling the offense'domestic in nature'

Police arrested Garrett at the scene and charged him with assault with intent to kill, initially labelling the offense ‘domestic in nature’

Garrett told officers that he had just gotten to the home five minutes before police did and that the door was open. 

He said he called 911 from Matthews’ phone because his phone was dead,  court documents said.

Police arrested Garrett at the scene and charged him with assault with intent to kill, initially labelling the offense ‘domestic in nature.’ 

Matthews was taken to a local hospital and died from her injuries the following day, police said.   

Matthews’ family say they did not know Garrett personally but knew of him.  

Matthews met Garrett in 1998 when she worked at the pharmacy at Old Lorton Reformatory and he was an inmate, according to court documents. 

When Garrett was released that year, he assaulted Matthews in her home and was sentenced to 24 years in prison, WUSA9.com reported.  

A relative of Matthews – who asked to remain anonymous – said that Garrett should not have been released in the first place. 

‘He should not have been on the street,’ she said.  

She said the family is ‘devastated’ and believes that Matthews’ death was totally preventable if authorities did not ignore the serious threat Garrett posed to the 71-year-old.  

‘It’s like the system failed us,’ she told NBC Washington.  

Police are now working with the U.S. Attorney’s office to file additional charges against Garrett. 

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