Michael Vance Matter, who was to be sentenced Thursday for killing Howard Stanley Urquhart, told the judge he wants to withdraw his guilty pleas and go to trial to prove the shooting was an accident, not homicide.

Matter�s attorney, public defender Dana Flick, immediately asked to be alone with his client.

During the half-hour recess, Mercer County District Attorney Robert Kochems told Urquhart�s family that Matter has the right to withdraw the plea agreement reached Jan. 12.

Matter, 53, formerly of 40 Maple Road, West Salem Township, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and a murder charge was dropped.

Matter maintains that Urquhart, 60, of 347 Hadley Road, Hempfield Township, died in a hunting accident while the two men were poaching deer Jan. 15, 2008, in a wooded area of Greene Township.

It was dark and Matter said he mistook his best friend Urquhart for a deer, accidentally shooting him in the neck.

Matter said he panicked and left town in Urquhart�s truck, ending up in North Carolina. He was extradited to Mercer County and eventually told his attorney the location of Urquhart�s body, which authorities found Feb. 20 off of Bandy Road.

Before his abrupt change of heart, members of Urquhart�s family testified they weren�t happy with the plea deal and wanted the case to go to trial.

They also spoke of how painful the case has been and said they�ll never forgive Matter for killing someone he called a close friend.

Jayne Urquhart, Urquhart�s sister-in-law, said the family never imagined he was dead when he went missing last January. They thought maybe Urquhart was with Matter, helping him find a job, especially since Urquhart often aided friends.

The family wondered why Matter didn�t tell someone right away about the shooting if it really was an accident, Mrs. Urquhart said.

�Not only did you have to murder him, you had to assassinate his character?� she asked Matter, who showed little emotion.

She also wondered if Matter, whom she called a coward, cried for Urquhart.

�You put Howard�s family through a living hell,� she said, insisting Matter hasn�t told the whole story about Urquhart�s death.

Urquhart�s brother James said the �senseless murder� is a shame for such a close family. �We won�t accept the fact that it was an accident,� he said.

Urquhart�s nephew Robert said he misses his uncle. �You don�t get forgiveness from me ... Your story sucks,� he told Matter.

Carolyn Urquhart, Howard Urquhart�s former wife and mother of their two children, said Matter snuffed out Urquhart�s life when he had a lot to live for like his family, his job at Cattron in Sharpsville and traveling and retirement plans.

�Mike Matter took all of this away from Howard and his family and so much more,� she said.

�We will always think of you as a murderer,� she said.

She and Urquhart taught their children not to hate others, but she has changed her mind. Her family despises Matter and won�t offer forgiveness, she said.

�Our greatest hope is that you never see the light of day again ... You will forever be known as a cold-blooded, heartless murderer,� Mrs. Urquhart said, her anger echoing in the courtroom.

Urquhart�s other daughter, Jennifer, sobbed through her testimony, telling Matter he committed an act of menace, hate, greed and selfishness. �You don�t have the guts to come out and be a man and tell the truth,� she said.

�I hope he haunts you. I hope you see his face every night when you go to sleep,� she told Matter.

Holding up a photo of her son, she said he was Urquhart�s only grandchild and her father will never get to watch the boy grow up.

She broke down when describing her father�s funeral and how she had to find a shirt to cover the bullet hole in his neck.

�Because of you, we made murder part of our vocabulary,� she said.

When Matter took the stand, more composed than at the Jan. 12 hearing when he cried over accidentally shooting Urquhart, he insisted the shooting wasn�t about drugs and he wasn�t under the influence of drugs or alcohol the night of the accident.

Matter said it�s hard to believe you can shoot someone from 10 feet away and think it�s a deer, but that�s what happened because it was dark and the two men had been following a deer into the woods after Urquhart hit it with a crossbow.

Matter said he ran to Urquhart after shooting in his direction and Urquhart fell. Matter said he fled after that because people do crazy things in those types of situations and he was scared.

�I�m not a murderer,� he said, adding he can prove it if he goes to trial.

Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher St. John continued the hearing to today after Flick said Matter needs more time to consider his options.

Recommended for you