Homer police charge man, 55, in 3-year-old murder case

Lee John Henry attends his arraignment on first-degree murder in the Homer Courtroom on Monday. Homer Police on Sunday arrested Henry in the death of Mark Matthews, then 61, killed off the Poopdeck Trail on July 28, 2013.

Lee John Henry attends his arraignment on first-degree murder in the Homer Courtroom on Monday. Homer Police on Sunday arrested Henry in the death of Mark Matthews, then 61, killed off the Poopdeck Trail on July 28, 2013.

HOMER — Homer police on Sunday arrested a Homer man in a three-year-old murder case.

Lee John Henry, 55, was arraigned in Homer court Monday for first-degree murder in the July 28, 2013 death of Mark Matthews, then 61, off the Poopdeck Trail.

Judge Margaret Murphy did not set bail, and because it was Henry’s initial appearance, he did not enter a plea.

In a press release on Monday, Homer Police Sgt. Lary Kuhns said Homer Police arrested Henry at about 2 p.m. Oct. 16 at a Pioneer Avenue address. Police took him into custody without incident.

Two people walking the Poopdeck Trail about 10:15 p.m. July 28, 2013, found Matthews’ body on a side trail locally known as the Boystown Trail that goes into the woods of the Town Square property. In a criminal complaint, Sgt. Kuhns alleged that Henry had met Matthews earlier that day. About a half hour before Matthews died, he and Henry had been seen arguing near the Poopdeck and Boystown trails.

Kuhns said Matthews had been beaten on the left side of his head and his pockets turned inside out. Matthews had gotten a $250 Western Union money gram earlier that day.

Before the city cleared woods there, Town Square property near the corner of Hazel Avenue and Poopdeck Street had been popular as a campsite for homeless people. More recently it has been associated with an increase in public drinking this summer.

Police got a break last month when a person came forward and said he or she had information regarding Matthews’ murder. The person agreed to call Henry and police got a search warrant to record the call. Kuhn said that in the phone call Henry admitted killing Matthews.

“All you need to know is I done it,” police quoted Henry as saying. “I had to tell someone to get it off my conscience. … You have to tell, at least say something to someone and I pray to the Lord to forgive me for doing that.”

At his arraignment, Henry answered Judge Murphy’s questions quietly. His hands shook as he read the criminal complaint against him. In response to questions to determine if he qualified for a public defender, Henry said he made less than $5,000 working at odd jobs, had no steady job and did not receive his Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend because the state had garnished it for previous court cases. Murphy appointed him a public defender.

Because first-degree murder is an unclassified felony, the presumption is that there is no bail, Murphy said. If convicted, Henry faces between 30 and 99 years in prison and up to a $500,000 fine.

• Michael Armstrong is a reporter for the Homer News. He can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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