Skip to content Skip to navigation

Donna Matthews Murder Trial Blog

Donna Matthews; During her Testimony Last Monday

(July 10)

Donna Matthews was found guilty of the July 4, 2016 murder of Michael Gayan. The jury deliberated for only 2 ½ hours. Matthews was convicted of 1st  Degree intentional homicide. The jury found Matthews not guilty of the armed robbery charge. 

This ends the two-week trial which saw the defense and State paint very different pictures of Michael Gayan and Donna Matthews. 

Tuesday began with closing arguments. During closing arguments, Prosecuting attorney Angelina Gabrielle argued that Donna Matthews was not a victim of abuse but rather a “manipulator” and “liar” who knowingly plotted to kill Michael Gayan months before she did. “Donna Matthews caused the death of Michael Gayan, and she did so intentionally” Gabrielle said. 

For the last two weeks, the State has argued that while Gayan was verbally abusive, that does not give Matthews the right to commit murder. The State showed text messages between Gayan and Matthews showing that the two were in constant communication including sexting. While she was professing her love to Gayan, Matthews was telling family and friends that Gayan was abusing her and she needed a way out. The State claimed that she manipulated her family and friends to protect her reputation. 

“This had nothing to do with protecting her life or that of her daughter, it had everything to do with protecting the fiction Matthews created for her friends and family” Gabrielle argued. 

Defense Attorney Jeff Urdangen compared Matthews to a hostage killing her captor. “If in escaping from a terrorist a captive kills her captor, we don’t condemn her, we give her a medal…we give her a parade.”

Urdangen said that the state’s closing argument was “misleading” and that the State “cherry picked facts.” He accused the State of calling witnesses to the Stand with “obvious track narks on their arm.” Implying that the State called witnesses that used drugs injected via needles. Urdangen accused the State of helping Michael Gayan abuse Matthews even more by “Discrediting Matthews’ character and making her the whore Gayan wanted her to be.” Urdangen noted “No one spoke for Mr. Gayan during testimony. Workmen in the area found his body, not his family or friends.” “Nobody lit a candle for Michael (Gayan)” Urdangen continued. 

Urdangen stressed to the jury “The tactics that Gayan used to control her where numerous, unrelenting, and they were painful; these are tactics that are used with hostages, POW’s, kidnap victims. The types of things pimps do to their prostitutes.” 

Urdangen mentioned that Matthews suffered from Battered Women’s Syndrome, the mental disorder where abused women feel they have no way to leave their abuser. Urdangen claimed that Gayan made her feel like a Claiming that Matthews went back only to keep Gayan calm and to keep from making threats against her and her family. Urdangen pressed the jury to consider Matthews’ “state of mind” and “What led up the shooting” when determining their verdict. 

Matthews broke down in tears and laid her head on the table in front of her after the verdict was read. Her family and friends in the gallery were visibly shaken and also in tears. Many of the family stayed out side of the courtroom for some time after the verdict. 

Prosecuting Attorney Angelina Gabrielle said exclusively to WGTD “We are happy with the verdict, and we believe it was the right verdict.”  Defense Attorney Jeff Urdangen told WGTD he was “saddened” by the verdict. 

Matthews will be sentenced August 31st at 9:00am. She faces life in prison.

-0- 

(July 9) 

Donna Matthews Murder trial will soon be in the hands of the jury. The defense rested their case and the state had no rebuttal witnesses. Attorneys spent most of Monday determining the language the jury will hear during instructions. 

The defense wanted specific verbiage on “self defense” and a clear definition of the word “ imminent.” The defense argued throughout the trial that Matthews felt she was in true danger before killing Gayan. According to Matthews, Gayan raped her, stole her personal posessions including her father’s ashes, and threatened to kill her and her family. Matthews testified that if she didn’t come back to Kenosha by July 5th, 2016 Michael Gayan threatened to kill her and her family and post more nude photos of her on Facebook.  Matthews said she had “no choice” but to kill Gayan. 

The State argued that while Gayan was verbally abusive, Matthews was far away from Gayan and had the intent to kill for months. The State said that Matthews was not in immediate danger nor was she defending herself from Gayan. Matthews flew nearly 4,000 miles from Maui, Hawaii to Kenosha where she killed Gayan.  According to texts between Donna Matthews and her Brother Derrick, and his own testimony against her, the two had been discussing killing Gayan since April of 2016. 

The judge ruled that self-defense will be mentioned in the instructions given to the jury as something to consider as they render their verdict. “The burden of production is low and the defense has met that sufficiently” Judge Jodi Meier stated. The instructions will include language about “perfect” and “imperfect” self-defense. “Perfect” self-defense means that a person had a reasonable belief that killing someone would prevent further harm or death to themselves. “Imperfect” means that even if the belief of threat is unreasonable a killing could be justified. The judge decided to keep the definition of “imminent” general; immediate or current harm. 

If convicted, several outcomes are possible. If Matthews is convicted of 1st degree intentional homicide, Matthews faces life in prison with the possibility of parole. Matthews could also be convicted of  2nd degree intentional homicide and face a maximum of 60 years. Matthews is also being charged with armed burglary; that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.  

Closing arguments will begin Tuesday with jury deliberations beginning soon after. 

-0- 

(July 7) 

Donna Matthew’s attorneys continued to call witnesses Friday. The focus was on Michael Gayan’s purported troublesome behavior and those who experienced it first-hand. 

Jamie Holmes, Gayan’s former partner, testified that she had been beaten by Gayan over the course of their on and off again relationship spanning over a decade. Holmes met Gayan in 1996. The two have a 20-year-old son. Holmes testified that Gayan struck her in the head sending her to the hospital, beat their family pets, and threaten to kill her and her son. 

Two of Donna’s brothers testified, Dayton and David Matthews. Donna moved to North Carolina to live with her brother Dayton in December of 2015. According to Dayton, A week after moving in, Michael Gayan left a voicemail on Donna’s cell phone. She played it for Dayton. Dayton testified that the 3-5 minute voicemail contained Gayan saying he was going to “Kill himself.” Dayton testified that Gayan was crying and begging for Donna in the voicemail. Donna stayed a number of weeks with Dayton. 

After another spat with Gayan, Donna moved in with her brother David in Pleasant Prairie. David testified he filed a police report in November of 2015 after he was made aware of threats Gayan made to burn his house down. 

Ann Sorely Fisher, the General Manager of ThunderHawk Golf Course, testified. Donna Matthews worked at ThunderHawk as a bartender. Fisher testified that Gayan showed up to the bar and sat down waiting for Matthews. Matthews ran, hid, and told Fisher. Gayan refused to leave the bar area several times demanding to see Matthews. Fisher testified she escorted Gayan out of the building. Gayan still did not leave and sat in his parked car in the parking lot. Fisher than called a "Ranger and golf pro" for assistance. Gayan eventually left the property. 

Emily Bankhead met Donna Matthews in 2016 while the two lived in Hawaii. Bankhead testified that she would allow Matthews to stay at her home as Matthews was afraid to spend the night at her own apartment for fear of Gayan showing up. Bankhead stated she would drive Matthews to her apartment to pick up clothes and supplies. Bankhead stated that during some of those trips, Gayan could be could be seen sitting on the front steps of Matthews's apartments. At that point, Bankhead and Matthews would drive off. 

The defense called Detective Correa back to the stand. Correa during his initial testimony last week claimed that Matthews did not receive any physical abuse. Defense attorney Pat Cafferty read the restraining order Matthews got against Gayan in Hawaii. Correa now says that the allegations in Matthews’s restraining order could have been physical abuse. “I was never attempting to hide anything” Correa testified. Correa said that over 3 Terrabytes (or 3,000 gigabytes) of data is stored about this case. 

The trial is expected to end next week. The defense could call their last few witnesses Monday and could end their case as soon as Monday morning. If the State does not call any rebuttal witnesses, jury instructions could be given and deliberations could start as soon as Tuesday morning. 

Matthews is charged with 1st degree intentional homicide for the July 4th, 2016 shooting of Gayan. If convicted, she faces life in prison.  

-0- 

(July 5)--- Donna Matthews’ attorneys claim their client was suffering from Battered Woman Syndrome when she shot and killed her ex-boyfriend Michael Gayan in his Kenosha home two years ago. And at Matthews’ trial Thursday, an expert on abuse was called to testify. 

Much of what Darald Hanusa had to say about domestic violence matched up perfectly with many aspects of the Matthews case, such as Michael Gayan’s ability to have a far-reaching effect on Matthewss. "Abusers can control their partners from afar," said Hanusa. "I've worked with women whose partners have been in other states and they control them through the internet, though making threats and through withholding all kinds of things." 

Matthews was in Hawaii when she finalized plans to return to Kenosha and shoot Gayan in his home.

Hanusa is a professor at UW-Madison who also counsels abusers and abuse survivors.

Hanusa also told the jury that psychological abuse—the kind of which Matthews said she mostly took--- is not uncommon. "Most of us when we think about domestic violence we think about physical violence--someone being punched or slapped or hit," Hanusa said. "I want you to understand that psychological abuse in many ways is worse than physical abuse. It happens everyday. The problem is that women can't prove it. It's her word against his." 

Hanusa was the first witness to be called after Matthews ended two-and-a-half days of testimony.

-0-

(July 3rd)---Under cross examination at her murder trial Tuesday, Donna Matthews struggled to explain her on-again, off-again relationship with Michael Gayan, the man she shot and killed two years ago tomorrow, claiming that killing him was the only way out of an abusive relationship. 

Prosecutor Angelina Gabriele pointed to a number of trips the pair took together, and text messages between the two, where it appeared Matthews was satisfied with the relationship. 

Matthews said much of it was a show to appease Gayan, whom she claimed to fear. "I did or said anything I had to say to appease him," Matthews explained. "There are two very different Michael Gayans," Matthews said earlier in the day. "One I loved and the other I was very much afraid of." 

Matthews tried to explain why she kept coming back to Gayan despite numerous breaks-ups. "Michael would never stop with me," she said. "I had to return to him time after time after time. I had to give myself to him. He would not stop."

"Would not stop what, Ms Matthews?" asked Gabriele. "He wasn't hurting you?"

Responded Matthews: "Pursuing me. Pursuing my jobs. Following me. Showing up at my house. Michael was always there. He would never stop." 

At one point, Matthews told Gabriele: "You don't understand." 

In addition to stalking, the harrassment took the form of posting nude photos of her on social media, ultra-controlling behavior and threats against her and her family.  On several occasions, Gayan put his hands around her neck or otherwise restrained her, Matthews said. 

One of the last straws appears to have been Gayan's attempt to use blackmail to force her back to Kenosha from where she'd been living in Hawaii by threatening to post additional nude photos. On a plane ticket purchased by Gayan, Matthews returned, not to rekindle the romance, but to shoot him dead.  

Also Tuesday: 

  • The defense ended their direct examination at around 9:00. 
  • The state began its cross examination around 9:15 am and continued through the rest of the day. 
  • The defense argued that a major point of leverage Gayan had over Matthews was the fact Gayan had her belongings (military information, fathers ashes etc); The state showed text messages that it said proved that Matthews had access to both rental properties Michael occupied that had her belongings when Michael was out of town.
  • Matthews was able to grab paintings out of Gayan’s possession while he was out of town, but did not grab other assets.
  • Matthews claimed that she moved all over the country to avoid Gayan. On one occasion, though, while in Colorado, Matthews accepted a spa day for her and a daughter, paid for by Gayan.  
  • Matthews claimed that Gayan knew she was in North Carolina, texts provided by the state suggested Gayan did not know where she was.
  • Matthews testified that she was afraid to make Gayan angry. Texts provided by the prosecution between Matthews and her daughters showed that on at least one occasion that she wanted to purposely make him angry. Matthews testifying, “Well.. I was very angry.”
  • Matthews said she canceled the restraining order against Gayan out of fear; the state provided text messages to the contray. Matthews sent Gayan a text saying,  “I want all of those photos gone off of facebook and then I will cancel the TRO (temporary restraining order).”
  • Matthews testified that Gayan threatened to kill her and them himself; The state provided texts between Matthews and her friend stating that Gayan wanted to commit suicide only. Matthews sent her friend “A man has to do what a man has to do.”

Gayan, in multiple messages provided by the state, told Matthews

  • “I would never want you to die”
  • “Don’t Fu***** come back”
  • “If I can’t have you, go and be free”
  • The State argued those messages from Gayan contradict Matthews testimony that Gayan would not “Let her go” and that she was "under a constant threat”
  • Gayan did not threaten to burn Matthews’ brother’s house down until after she first threatened to burn his belongings.

In other court related events, Damon Matthews, the brother of Donna Matthews, was admonished on the record Tuesday for his perceived third attempt at tampering with the jury. On Monday, Damon Matthews left the court room early and waited outside on the courthouse steps. As the jury was let out for the day, Matthews opened and read the Kenosha News. The jury is not allowed to discuss the case with anyone or read any media regarding the case during the trial.

The State made a motion to bar Damon from attending any future preceedings and from being within a one block radius of the Kenosha County Courthouse. The Judge did not bar Matthews as she wanted to discuss the matter in person with Matthews. Damon Matthews was not present in the court room gallery Tuesday. Tampering with a jury is a felony charge.

Donna Matthews will continue her testimony on Thursday.  

-0- 

(Edited to reflect uncertainty over source of cocaine in 13th graph) 

(July 2)---The defense in the Donna Matthews murder trial opened its case by putting Matthews herself on the witness stand Monday, letting jurors hear for themselves Matthews' explanation of why she flew thousands of miles to Kenosha in July of 2016 to shoot and kill her ex-boyfriend, Michael Gayan. 

Matthews, who's facing the possibility of life in prison if convicted as charged, answered most of her attorneys' questions in a calm voice, but on several occasions visibly shook and broke down in tears.  

Matthews' attorneys are claiming that their client is suffering from a form of battered woman syndrome. 

Matthew’s says she met Gayan in 2013 or 2014 through mutual friends Their romantic relationship began in 2015. Matthew’s said that at first Gayan was “intelligent, kind, and well-traveled.” Things went sour soon after. Matthew’s testified that Gayan created relationship rules and controlled nearly everything that she did. “I would have to sleep naked or it would get ugly” she said. 

Some of the harrassment occurred in front of friends and co-workers. According to Matthews, Gayan would show up to her workplace, the ThunderHawk Golf Course in Beach Park, IL, unannounced. Matthews worked as a bartender and server. On one occasion, Gayan approached the bar and demanded to see Matthews. Matthews ran and hid while her boss told Gayan to leave. He eventually did.  

A few months later, Gayan showed up at a family gathering in a public park for an Independence Day Celebration in 2015. To conceal her presence, Matthews ducked down while her friends, aware of her problems with Gayan, gathered around her in a protective circle. Matthews testified that she immediately hit the ground and her friends gathered around so Gayan wouldn’t see her.  

Matthews testified that her brother Derrick, who testified against his sister Donna in the hope of a lighter sentence for his role in the murder, purchased a gun to protect himself against Gayan. Donna Matthews testified that Gayan said all it would take to kill her brother Derrick was “one call, one shot," an apparent reference to his professed connections to the mob.  

Matthews alleges that she began traveling around the country with the help of friends and family to avoid Gayan. She traveled to Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and eventually Hawaii. With nearly each move, Gayan followed her and sent her harassing text messages threatening her daughters and four brothers.

Matthews went to New Orleans and stayed at an Airbnb with her daughter Sidney, who posted photos of the house, which had rainbow-color flags and banners. In a text. Gayan asked Matthews why she was staying in a "dirty faggot house." Gayan then announced he planned to travel to New Orleans. 

In the process of moving, Matthews rented a storage facility. According to Matthews, Gayan told her that he broke into the space and stole treasured, personal belongings. Including her military bag, family heirlooms, and father’s burial remains. The defense provided picture messages showing Gayan in possession of those items. Matthews also alleges he transferred personal and revealing photos from her phone to his cell phone 

The defense argued that Gayan used his possession of Matthew’s personal belongings and nude photos and videos as leverage over Matthews. If Matthew’s dared to leave, he would destroy her belongings and post the photos online. In one test message Gayan said “I guess I’ll just piss on and destroy your stuff.” 

Matthews filed a restraining order against Gayan in early 2015 in Kenosha. Matthews asked the court to end the order a few months later. Matthews claims that she had given up fighting. Matthews felt that in order to get her belongings back, and to stop the release of photos, she had to keep Gayan “Calm and peaceful,” which is why she kept going back to him. 

During the state's case last week, prosecuting attorney Gabrielle argued that Matthews was a willing participant in interactions with Gayan. After getting the restraining order nixed, Matthews met with Gayan in a hotel in Chicago. The state presented lewd text messages between Matthews and Gayan, where both parties seemed interested in “crazy sex” according to Matthews. At Gayan's purported request, Matthews bought cocaine, she says from a couple who testified against her last week, although in court on Tuesday, the prosecutor questioned the truthfulness of the statement, accusing Matthews of trying to impugn the integrity of the state's witnesses. (The couple denies having supplied Matthews with cocaine.) 

Matthews eventually moved to Hawaii in 2016 to create even more distance between her and Gayan. She told Gayan that she was going on “vacation” to Hawaii. Matthews figured that Gayan was broke and wouldn’t be able to stay in Hawaii. Matthews stated that Gayan continually harassed her. The defense presented new text messages. “I have created a new life in Hawaii, please don’t come here!!” Matthews texted Gayan.  

Gayan eventually texted Matthews and said that he had rented an apartment in Hawaii. Matthews responded “NO NO NO NO!!!!???”  Gayan moved to the Island. Matthews agreed to meet up with him once he arrived. Matthews said “She had no other choice.” The two met up at a local park. 

Matthews claimed that Gayan grabbed her behind the neck and walked her across the street into his new apartment and riped her shorts down and proceeded to rape her. Matthews broke down in tears. “I was never going to be able to have a live” Matthews testified. 

Matthews filed a restraining order in Mauii against Gayan in early 2016 with the help of “Women Helping Women” a local domestic abuse organization in Hawaii.. Matthews claimed that Gayan threatened to “put a gun to her head” and “kill her children.” The judge granted the restraining order. That did not stop Gayan who violated the order after approaching Matthews as she waited at a bus stop to go to work. Gayan purportedly jumped out of his vehicle and approached Matthews. Matthews tried hiding behind a tree and dialed 911. Other people at the bus stop also called 911. When the police arrived, Gayan was gone. He was later apprehended and put behind bars for 3 days. 

Gayan was then told by the Maui District Attorney that if he didn’t leave the island, he would be sentenced to jail for 6 months. Gayan purchased a ticket and left the island. 

Matthews begged for him to come back to the Island however a few months later. Matthews claimed out of desperation, her friends talked her into a plan to throw Gayan off a remote cliff in Hawaii. Matthews admitted in court the plan was “ridiculous.” Gayan never flew back to Hawaii. 

The harassment continued. Gayan referred to Matthews African American commander in the army, where Matthews served in the early 90’s, as a “N*****” and accused Matthews of sleeping with him. “Anyone I spoke to I was sleeping with” Matthews testified. Matthews denied any relationship between her and her former army commander.

In a series of messages, Gayan sent her a list of all of her Facebook friends and threatened to send nude photos and screenshot pictures of text messages to them. “I need your family to know what kind of woman you are” Gayan texted Matthews.  Matthews alleges that Gayan did eventually send the nude photos out, including to children in need from India, with whom Matthews spent some time working with in 2014.  

Matthews reached out to the Kenosha police department and provided several statements. During a phone call with Kenosha Police Detective Den Hartog, Matthews claimed that Hartog told her there was nothing they could do to help her.

After reaching out to the Kenosha Police several times, her own family and friends, and Gayan’s family, Matthews sent letters or direct messages to the IRS and even C.E.O. and Founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg to no response. Matthews says she felt she had no option but to kill Gayan. “Somebody was going to die” Matthews said. “I decided to defend myself.” 

Matthews then described how she killed Gayan on the night of July 4th2016. Her account differing from Kenosha Police Department Criminalist Todd Thorne. Matthews says that when she shot Gayan, he was not sitting but standing. When pressed by her council Matthews responded “He’s (Thorne) Wrong.” 

On Friday, the defense and prosecution met and discussed a possible plea deal. Matthews rejected the deal, wanting to testify instead. Defense attorney Pat Cafferty said the “deal wasn’t as good as what the state offered originally.” 

Matthews is expected to continue her direct testimony on Tuesday.   

-0- 

(June 28th)---The prosecution continued to call witnesses today during the murder trial of Donna Matthews. Joy Hulse, 52, testified that after meeting Matthews at “The Other Place” bar in Winthrop Harbor, she agreed to move to Hawaii with Donna. The two rented a studio apartment. After a few weeks together, Hulse claimed things went sour. Hulse stated that Donna changed the locks of the apartment and was verbally abusive towards her. Hulse alleges that Matthews called her a “Drunk.” “I didn’t know whether to fear him (Gayan) or her (Matthews), I felt uneasy.” Hulse stated.

Cara Crossland, 35, from Maui met Donna after she found work in Maui. The two of them worked at a restaurant in Maui. Crossland testified that Matthews  told her about Michael Gayan and the embarrassing photos he was posting on Facebook. Crossland told Matthews “The pictures will never go away and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Crossland told the court that Matthews joked about killing Gayan. “Donna told me “Maybe an accident will happen.” Crossland said. After knowing Crossland for a few months, Matthews asked Crossland to use her phone claiming that her phone was tapped. Crossland agreed  and let Matthews use her phone stating “The police pretty much told her that they wouldn’t do anything to help her.” 

Prosecution also called Detective Josh Zeller of Kenosha. He flew to Hawaii to meet with witnesses including Crossland. He collected documents and brought them back for investigation, including a certified copy of the restraining order Matthews got against Gayan in Hawaii. 

Kenosha Police Dept. Criminalist Todd Throne testified. Throne, a forensic expert, detailed the blood patterns of Gayan’s body and the trajectory of the bullets. Gayan was sitting in a chair as Matthews came out and shot him. Thorne stated that bullets impacted Gayan’s chest, elbow, and low abdominal area. Blood was only found in the area surrounding Gayan and the door. Thorne believed that Gayan moved a few feet out of his chair and reached for his front door before he died. 

The prosecution will continue calling witnesses tomorrow. 

-0- 

(July 27)---Testimony Wednesday in the Donna Matthews murder trial painted a picture of an abuse victim desperately pleading for help from police while at the same time making plans to kill her ex-boyfriend.

Kenosha Police Dept. Sgt. Daniel Cooper testified that he and Matthews—from her new home in Hawaii—exchanged between 10 and 15 emails over a period of a couple of months. Matthews had wanted Cooper to arrest Michael Gayan for restraining order violations, saying Gayan was blackmailing her by posting lewd and otherwise inappropriate photos of her. 

In court, Cooper read from some of those emails. "I've been humiliated more than you can imagine," wrote a frustrated and upset Matthews about two weeks before the killing. "I don't know what to do."  

Cooper testified that he tried to contact Gayan—a Kenosha resident—but instead left a message telling him to knock it off.

Even though the harassment continued, Gayan was never arrested because of jurisdictional problems as well as other issues.

The very same day in June that she emailed Cooper, Matthews reportedly texted a regular at a Winthrop Harbor restaurant and bar she once worked at, called the Other Place, asking the customer to buy an unregistered gun for her. "I told her I would do what I could," said Ryan Wait, adding that he had no intention of doing anything. 

Matthews eventually got a gun from one of her brothers, and on the night of July 4th, 2016, shot and killed Gayan in his home. His body was found several days later.

With police starting to close in, Matthews, back in Hawaii, was looking for an alibi, and thought she’d found one with the help of Christina Schroeder, a friend and former restaurant boss. "Did she ask you for an alibi for July 4th, 2016?" questioned prosecutor Angelina Gabriele. Schroeder: "She mentioned she was at our restaurant that day but I informed her we were closed." Gabriele: "And she told you that she had already told the police detective that she had been at the O-P twice on July 4th?" "Correct," said Schroeder. 

Matthews was eventually extradited to Wisconsin to face charges.

Her attorneys are claiming she’s the victim of a form of battered woman syndrome. The prosecution maintains Matthews was simply seeking to end the embarrassing Facebook posts by killing Gayan. 

Additional prosecution witnesses are expected to be called Thursday. 

-0-

(July 26 P.M.)--In their opening statements today,  attorneys in the Kenosha murder trial of Donna Matthews debated who actually had the upper hand in Matthews’ relationship with Michael Gayan, the ex-boyfriend she killed, allegedly out of fear of losing her own life.

Defense attorney Jeff Urdangen said Matthews, in conversations with friends and family, repeatedly referred to Gayan as her “terminator,” saying Gayan was an ultra-controlling and abusive boyfriend who repeatedly threatened her life and the lives of her relatives.  Believing her actions were justified by years of unstoppable torment, Matthews shot and killed Gayan in his home nearly two years ago.

Prosecutor Angelina Gabrielle didn’t see it quite that way. She accused Matthews of being the manipulator, whose main motive for murder was to avenge her reputation after Gayan posted nude photos of her on Facebook, along with embarrassing text messages. "This case is all about Donna Matthews manipulation of Michael Gayan and her friends and family," Gabrielle said. "Her all-consuming fear that her friends would find out the truth about her," she said.

The trial’s first day featured an unusual amount of extracurricular activity, with Judge Jodi Meier at times having to admonish spectators for unruly and inappropriate courtroom behavior.

One of Matthews’ brothers was actually summoned to the witness stand to explain his actions. Damon Matthews had tried to talk to his bother Derrick, who's in custody, after the brother finished testifying about his role in the killing. Damon also caught heat from the judge for mixing with potential jurors during the jury selection process on Monday. "You better not have any contact with any witnesses, from a distance, up close--with any juror...because not only will you be excluded from this courtroom for the rest of the trial, I'm going to hold you in contempt and have you arrested," she said. 

The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday with additional prosecution witnesses. 

-0-

July 26 A.M.--Opening statements in the Donna Matthews trial begin today at 8:30am. The jury was selected Monday afternoon after a day-long process as jurors faced questions from the judge, the state, and Matthew's attorneys.  7 women and 8 men were selected. 15 jurors were selected from a pool of 102. 

Donna Matthews, 52, is charged with 1st degree intentional homicide after killing her ex-boyfriend Michael Gayan in 2016. The defense alleges that Matthews was poisoned and abused sexually and physical throughout the relationship. When Matthews tried to end her relationship with Gayan, the breakup led to more abuse. Gayan posted haunting messages as well as nude photos of Matthews on his Facebook profile. Matthews filed a restraining order against Gayan after moving to Hawaii.  Kenosha resident Gayan flew to Hawaii and continued making threats. In a past statement to WGTD, Matthew's brother Damon Matthews, alleged Gayan told his sister “He (Gayan) would burn her family members' houses down because he knew where we lived.' Donna Matthews called the police days before killing Gayan. 

Matthews connected with her brother Derrick in the summer of 2016 to discuss securing a weapon to kill Gayan. Donna Matthews flew from Hawaii to a local airport, Derrick picked her up. Derrick Matthews later drove Donna to Gayan's Kenosha Home. Donna Matthews entered Gayan's home unnannounced and shot him multiple times. Gayan's body was found a month later. Derrick Matthews has been charged as a being a "party to a crime" for the murder and for harboring and abetting a felon; both felony charges. 

Matthews attorneys allege that the severity of the purported abuse led Matthews to believe that killing Gayan was her only way out. As previously reported, her attorneys will invoke” battered woman’s syndrome" as a key part of her defense. The syndrome, experts claim, clouds the judgement of women who are abused.

During jury selection, jurors were asked questions to determine their eligibility. When the defense asked if a woman has the right to use "deadly force" to escape an abuser, the jurors selected for the case unanimously agreed. Judge Jodi Meiers will preside over the trial. 

-0-