I often focus my writing on individuals show no remorse for the violent acts they have committed and go to great lengths to avoid being captured by authorities. A story out of Arizona this week looks at a very different circumstance – one in which a man likely could have lived out his days without paying for his crimes but felt compelled to hand himself over to the police years after the violence took place.
Matthew Gibson got messages this summer that he could not explain. Some of these messages included the name “Anita Townshed,” like the voice mail message in which Gibson was notified that Ms. Townshed’s prescription was ready. Gibson had no idea who Townshed was, but he also never knew the name of the woman he had killed in 1997. So, he came to assume that others had discovered his crime and were warning him that what he had done would come to light.
Gibson then drove from North Carolina all the way to Arizona. He walked into the local police station and confessed to murdering a woman following an evening in his trailer and then dumping her body seventeen years ago. It turns out the woman he had killed was named Barbara Brown Agnew. But, due to his nagging conscience and random messages regarding an entirely different person, Gibson is now serving more than ten years in prison.
While the motivation to confess may have come from misinterpreted communication, Gibson’s decision to share what he had done at least provides closure for a cold case that had gone without answers for nearly two decades.
The development of these events is fascinating. For many of us who were not harboring a dark secret about a distant crime, I imagine that getting someone else’s mail or phone messages would just be seen as an annoyance due to some recordkeeping mishap. In this case, it proved to be the piece needed for a man already feeling remorse and ready to face his punishment to do what he could to make things right in the eyes of the law.
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