With triple murder case stalled, victim's mother pleads for help
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - A mother hopes someone will come forward and provide information that will finally lead to her son's killer.
Zephaniah Matthews is one of the victims in a triple murder last August, and Kern County Sheriff investigators say they have run out of leads and have still not identified any suspects or a motive in the case.
"It's still a big question mark and a big blur in my mind," Sophie Lee told Eyewitness News on Wednesday. "I don't understand why, and that's the question I continue to ask, 'Why?'"
Matthews' mother said this wasn't supposed to happen.
Matthews was gunned down in his east Bakersfield apartment on Quincy Street on Aug. 6. Two other men also died in the attack, 23-year-old Junior Alfonzo Contreras, and 22-year-old Daniel Watkins.
Matthews' mother says all the men were into rap music, and that's why they were there that night. The suspects barged into the apartment at about 11 p.m.
"My son was very outgoing, he was a people-person, he was very loving, and hard-working," Lee says, "his main focus was his children and his music."
The mother says no one can imagine why anyone would want to harm her son. They have no idea why he was shot.
"What happened? We want to know." Lee said. "There's no reason that anybody should be doing anything like this."
Investigators say they have not been able to track down any suspects.
"This is an active, on-going investigation," Sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt told Eyewitness News. "This is a case we want to solve."
Investigators say they believe two men came into the apartment and opened fire. The suspects are only described as "black male adults wearing masks and dark clothing."
Officers say the suspects took off on foot, and may have gotten into a car, but they have no description of a vehicle.
The victims were shot multiple times, according to investigators.
Sophie Lee says her two grandchildren were in the apartment when the shooting happened.
"They're getting better," she said, "my grandson -- by being older -- he's having a hard time still." Lee says the little boy is nearly 10, and he did have nightmares at first. The little girl is four years old. The grandmother doesn't know if the children saw the shooting. The children are now living with their mothers, she says.
Eyewitness News has been told that Daniel Watkins' girlfriend was also there that night. He worked for Family Motors Auto Group, and this summer Watkins' boss said he was shocked that his employee had been killed. Dealership owner Jose Arredondo said he'd personally hired Watkins, and couldn't understand why he would be the target of any violence.
"I can spot anybody that is gang-related or drugs," Arredondo said in August. "I know that Daniel is clean as they can be."
Lee also insists her son, Matthews, had no involvement with gangs or drugs.
The third victim, Contreras, was listed by the Kern County Coroner's office as being from Ridgecrest.
A fourth man was also shot, but survived. KCSO spokesman Ray Pruitt said the department is still not releasing his name.
No one else in the apartment was injured.
But the three men were killed, and their killers have still not been identified.
"I just want someone to come forward and do the right thing," Lee said. "because there's families that are hurting, we're still hurting."
Anyone with information on the case is urged to call the Kern County Sheriff's Office at (661) 861-3110 or Secret Witness at (661) 322-4040.
"I just want somebody to come forward," Lee insists, "because, I mean, somebody has to know something."