A Raleigh man was sentenced Monday to 25 to 31 years in prison in the August 2014 slaying of a retired Durham minister at Eno River State Park in western Orange County.
A plea agreement with prosecutors will allow Matthew John Reed, 37, who lists his address as 3243 Calumet Court in Raleigh, to avoid life in prison. He originally was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Kent Torrey Hinkson, a retired Durham minister. He was found guilty of second-degree murder as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
Attorney Jonathan Broun said Reed knows what he did was a “terrible wrong.”
“He is devastated by what he did because of what it did to the victim’s family and about the agony that it has caused his own family,” Broun said, “and because what he did violated God’s law and God’s will.”
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Reed answered Judge Reuben Young’s questions in a clear, strong voice but did not speak about Hinkson’s death.
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall consulted last year with Hinkson’s family before deciding not to seek the death penalty. The only other punishment for first-degree murder is life in prison.
Hinkson, a 71-year-old father of three and grandfather of eight, was a pastor at Presbyterian churches in Texas, California and Florida. In Durham, he volunteered at All Saints Church, where he led Bible studies and helped provide pastoral care to shut-ins.
He left home around 3 p.m. Aug. 4 after telling his wife that he was going to run errands, Woodall said. When he did not return for a planned dinner party, Hinkson’s wife immediately contacted police, he said. Surveillance video last shows Hinkson leaving a Wells Fargo bank that day, he said.
The men met online only a few hours before agreeing to meet for sex, Woodall said. They met at McDonald’s and spent the afternoon looking for somewhere to be alone, Woodall said, first going to Bennett Place in Durham and ending up at the Eno River State Park.
Hinkson confided in Reed that he was married and a minister, Woodall said. Reed’s “intention was he was going to have sex with Mr. Hinkson and then he was planning to blackmail him” by saying he would tell Hinkson’s family unless he paid Reed, Woodall said.
Reed got angry with Hinkson at some point after they had sex and fatally assaulted him, Woodall said. Reed left the park in Hinkson’s red 2011 Hyundai Sonata; someone who saw the news reports later reported seeing the car at the Mews Apartments in Durham, he said.
Hinkson’s car keys and other belongings were dumped into a storm drain, Woodall said.
Reed called his family, who live out of state, after the murder and told them he attempted to blackmail a prominent minister in the community and had killed him, Woodall said. Reed also told his family that he had been taking methamphetamines, according to search warrants.
Reed’s brother-in-law, Mark Hynes, who is a police officer in Pennsylvania, called Durham police.
Reed’s family also encouraged him to call investigators, Woodall said, and he did, saying he wanted to turn himself in. Investigators picked him up Aug. 10 in Greensboro, and he took them to a section of Eno River State Park near U.S. 70 and Interstate 85 in Orange County. They found Hinkson’s partially decomposed, half-clothed body there.
An autopsy shows Hinkson died after being strangled, likely with his own belt, Woodall said, and hit in the head.
Hinkson’s wife, daughter and son faced the court together Monday – a few feet from Reed – and talked about life since his death.
Family was everything to him, and he meant everything to them, Hinkson’s daughter Beth Perry said, but they can’t spend time with him any more, confide in him or ask him for advice. His grandchildren “miss him terribly and still ask about him,” she said.
“We want you to know that we forgive you,” Hinkson’s daughter Beth Perry told Reed. “We are able to forgive, because Christ Jesus has forgiven us and has given us faith to trust him. We pray that you’ll find faith in him, too, and that you’ll have true peace.”
Hinkson’s family didn’t know about his homosexual activities before he died, said Brian Ellison, who has known Hinkson and his family for about nine years. This has been a difficult year for them, he said, but they have taken it one day at a time with the support of friends and their faith.
Reed’s previous criminal history includes a break-in in Ohio, during which he assaulted an elderly woman, Woodall said. Reed’s family knows him as a “kindhearted, sensitive, caring man,” Broun said, but one who also struggled with drugs and psychological problems.
Now seven months sober, Reed, who left school after eighth grade but has his GED hopes he can be a positive influence in prison, Broun said. He wants to tutor other prisoners so that they also can get their GEDs, he said.