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UPDATE: This story was originally published in November 2016. Since that time, 11Alive's Brendan Keefe has taken another look at the evidence in this story, and talks to one reporter who said she was threatened when she had questions about the investigation. Click here for "Trigger: The Last Word" | And we talk to Jessica Boynton again here: "Trigger: Free as a Bird"
GRIFFIN, Ga. – Standing inside her closet, wearing tan slippers adorned with fur, black yoga pants and a red T-shirt, Jessica Boynton contemplates what to wear. She wants to give her new employers the right impression, since tomorrow is her first day at a chiropractor's office.
It's just one piece of the brand new beginning the young mother and wife has been putting together for her and her sons.
Jessica's husband and high school sweetheart is Griffin Police Officer Matthew Boynton. The 20-year-old says he's heading to Waffle House for a late night food run with on-duty cop and best friend, Officer Joshua Guthrie--leaving his service weapon at home, in its holster and in the closet. A grandson of the county sheriff, a career in law enforcement was in his genes.
It's Thursday, April 14, 2016.
Jessica's two boys, Tollin, 2, and baby Tyler, are sound asleep in their rooms. As she continues to tinker with clothes, she notices that her red and black composition notebook, which is usually carefully tucked under a pile of clothes inside her closet, has been left on top of the clothes. It's the journal where she's been keeping detailed notes about divorcing Matthew.
There are pages missing.
That's the last thing the 19-year-old remembers.
She thinks it's 10:45 p.m.
Officer Adam Trammel reports to a non-emergency call from the Boynton residence at Ashford Place on Ashford Way, in Griffin, Ga. Since his bodycam wasn't charged, it doesn't record this call.
Matthew reads a text from Lt. Curtis Keys, “look for police car.”
He responds to Keys, “Trammel is here.”
Once he arrives on the scene, Trammel makes contact with Matthew, who tells him that he and his wife got into an argument.
He tells Trammel that he was in the shower, using his cell phone, when Jessica walked into the bathroom, pulled the shower curtain back and snatched his cell phone. He says, he got out of the shower and asked her for his phone back several times, but she refused, he says, until he admitted to her that he was cheating on her. He says she started poking him in the chest with her finger, telling him that he had to admit there was another woman. It's the second infidelity in their relationship—Jessica admitted to cheating on him before they were married.
This, Matthew says to Trammel, is the precursor to an argument the couple also had at Walmart later that night, just after 10 p.m.
Once outside, he tells Trammel Jessica refuses to get into the car to go home—telling him she would find another way home and walked back into Walmart. Matthew, who's wearing a gray sweatshirt, says he called Lt. Curtis Keys and asked him what he should do. He tells Trammel he left Walmart without Jessica.
Trammel doesn't check on Jessica.
Friday, April 15-
Guthrie calls Matthew and they chat for two minutes.
Matthew texts Guthrie, “on the way.”
Matthew to Guthrie, “stand by on that.”
Matthew to Guthrie, “back en route.”
Still peering down at his phone, Matthew sends a text to his mistress.
A text messages is sent to his phone from Jessica's phone.
“I can't do this anymore. Take care of Tollin and Tyler Please tell them I love them everyday. I have been suffering for a while now and no one has noticed. Here lately I have not been able to recognize the person I see in the mirror. This is not the first time I have had suicide thoughts. I love you and the boys.”
His phone is pretty active tonight. In fact, 68 text messages are exchanged between him and his mistress.
“Haha I'm sorry I didn't think about that lol,” he sends to her after receiving a text from her after his text from Jessica.
The glowing yellow and black, blocked letter sign illuminates his truck driving past. Just one minute later, Matthew calls 911, reaching Spalding County dispatch.
He requests EMS.
"I left the location, I'm back en route, I'm on Carver Road right now. I'll be back there in about two minutes. She's having suicidal thoughts," he says calmly to the dispatcher.
“My kids are at home with her, so I'm trying to hurry up and get back there.”
“I'm driving. She just said that she's been experiencing suicidal thoughts right now, she told me to take care of the boys. So I'm trying to hurry and get back home just to make sure that nothing's going to happen to them.”
“Any weapons inside the house?” the dispatcher inquires.
“Uh, just my service weapon,” he responds, ending the call just a minute later.
He reads another text from mistress, while driving home at nearly 90 mph.
Trammel is dispatched to the scene.
Officer Robert Brian Jones is also dispatched to the Ashford Way apartment building.
Lt. Curtis Keys is dispatched to the scene.
Matthew sends another text to his mistress, a Spalding County dispatcher, “Give me a few. To text back long story I'll tell you later.”
Matthew makes it home and races to the breezeway of his apartment and enters, checks the master bedroom and bangs on the locked closet door. He calls out for Jessica, but no answer. He grabs his police radio, stationed on top of the white microwave in the kitchen charging, and puts his phone on the counter.
Making his way outside, he calls for assistance over his radio. His tone changes.
“I believe I just heard a shot fired coming from my residence. I just came up the stairs, two rounds… be advised I smell gun smoke, and I can't get an answer at the door,” he says out of breath and panicked.
He later tells investigators that he heard Tyler crying, and then, “POP-POP!”
Jones advises Matthew over the radio, “Stay outside. I'll be there in about two. Stay outside.”
“10-4,” Matthew says, audibly crying.
Keys reports to the scene.
Running across the parking lot and up the stairs, responding officers, Keys, Jones and Gresham head toward the apartment.
A message to Matthew's phone is received and marked as read, from his mistress.
Armed with bodycams attached to their uniforms, the officers burst through the door, quickly passing Matthew's phone, a black and grey Verizon LG smartphone, on the kitchen counter.
While Trammel's body cam is out of juice tonight, Jones's bodycam spots Trammel as the other officers enter the apartment.
"Police department!" Jones shouts as he travels deeper inside—his weapon drawn.
With his gun raised, holding it out and in front of him with both hands, Jones passes by a framed portrait hung on the wall. His flashlight's beam reveals a smiling family of four.
He hears a baby crying as he carefully steps into the bedroom where a dark brown crib is situated.
“Stay out, Matt,” one the officers advises his fellow officer.
Jones checks on a locked closet door between the master bedroom and hallway, across from the bathroom. He assigns another officer to standby at the door until the rest of the apartment is cleared.
The baby's muffled cry echoes, getting louder as the officers sweep their guns back and forth, searching for the shooter. Jones eyes a small child sleeping on a bottom bunk bed in the back bedroom.
The air is thick with mystery, as the officers approach the locked closet.
“[I'm] gonna have to kick that door in…” Jones relays to the other officers standing on the other side of the closet, barreling through it in just two swift and deliberate kicks.
Inside, they find Jessica.
Her body is on the floor, just behind the door. Her shoulder-length, blonde hair is saturated in red. Her head wound has soaked into the green and white pillow her head is resting on—her blood is contained to that one stain and a few nearby drops.
“Everybody clear out,” says Jones, who has Keys call for an EMT.
“She's still breathing…”
“Get him downstairs. Get him downstairs,” one of the officers whispers to another.
The conversation bounces from officer to officer.
“Hang on, sweetie, OK?”
“She's trying to get up.”
“Can we get her out to the bedroom?”
“We got to get her out.”
“GSW, possible to the head. She's still breathing. She's moaning.”
They investigate further and find a gun underneath Jessica's limp body. It's one of their own—a police-issued .40-caliber Glock. And it's assigned to Matthew, her husband, the cop.
After Jones pushes the gun away from underneath Jessica's body—placing it inside the bedroom, he and Officer Josh Howell move Jessica from the closet to the bedroom floor next to the foot of her bed so that EMS can begin working on her. They turn her over from her stomach to her back.
“Do you know what she used?” asks one of the emergency responders in the room.
The ceiling fan's light shines down on Jessica's eyes. They're re slit open while her head flops from side to side on the beige carpet, as one female EMS works on her. While she places a blood pressure sleeve around her arm, an officer stands over her, shining a flashlight on Jessica's face, revealing that it's covered in blood.
She's breathing, but unresponsive. The paramedic begins accessing her head wound, but they're having a hard time finding it through her hair and thick blood.
The ceiling fan circles on high speed. The quiet is broken when the baby begins to mumble from the other room. Above Jessica, pinned to the wall, is a large black letter “B” for Boynton.
With dark, latex gloves on, an officer kneels down and touches her neck with his fingers. She grabs his arm with her left hand, while her other arm falls to the ground.
Jones removes the gun, which has a tactical flashlight attached to the bottom of its barrel, and places it on the kitchen counter and heads outside.
Still inside, some of the officers look closer and find two bullet holes inside the closet. Collectively, they examine the bullets' trajectory from the closet, into the bedroom wall and ceiling.
“So just one?" an officer questions the others.
The first bullet went upward at 54-degree angle. And the second bullet went up at 25-degree upward angle 1'10” off the floor.
But outside, things aren't so composed.
Jones approaches Matthew to find out what happened.
The crying officer tells Jones that he left the apartment and was meeting Guthrie at Waffle House, when he received a text from Jessica that indicated she was going to kill herself. He drove back to the apartment, he tells Jones, but it was too late.
EMTs start carrying Jessica down the stairs on a backboard and click her into a gurney and swing open the ambulance doors. They hoist her inside.
“God damn it, man! This couldn't happen man. I f***ing love her. She loved me. She told me she loved me right before she did it," Matthew says, sobbing, as the paramedics roll her gurney into the ambulance and slam the doors shut.
“What are my kids going to do?” he pleaded, his voice cracking with emotion. “If I could have been there 10 minutes earlier I could have jumped in front of the gun and try to get it from her man.”
“Where did she shoot herself at? She would never have done this. I don't know why. If I could have been here sooner, maybe I could have stopped her…” Matthew says, spiraling. “If I just would have left my f**king duty belt in the car.”
An officer tries to console his grieving coworker.
“Man, look, she's still breathing. She's got good pulse. Blood pressure.”
“F**k man!” Matthew says.
“She's even fighting with EMS, dude,” the fellow officer tells Matthew.
The ambulance pulls away with Jessica in critical condition, to the fire station located on Carver Road, where the medical helicopter picks her up and takes her to an Atlanta hospital.
Matthew and Jessica's two sons are still inside. Once the scene is secure, investigator Misty Gresham checks on Tollin, who's sleeping, and Tyler, who is awake and still crying in his crib—both unharmed.
Dispatch notifies Spalding County Sheriff Wendell Beam, who is also Matthew's grandfather and police notify Jessica's family that she has died.
A request is made to notify the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The GBI steps in to investigate.
Chris DeMarco, GBI's assistant special agent in charge, arrives on the scene and meets with Griffin Police Chief Michael Yates for a briefing. Griffin Police Capt. Donald Britt, Lt. Darrell Dix, Lt. Keys and Beam are also present.
Trammel records the 10:53 p.m., incident report from April 14.
GBI conducts canvas and begins interviewing neighbors.
Agent DeMarco approaches Meagan Browning, who's joined by Eric Kshywonis, at 61 Ashford Way—the apartment just downstairs from Jessica and Matthew.
“She's like a sister to me,” Browning says, her voice quivering.
“Her husband is cheating on her with another woman,” reveals Browning, who said, they called dispatch a few nights earlier because he took the kids. The dispatch operator notified Matthew on Facebook, Browning says.
“This is who he's sleeping with,” points to the Facebook post that she says she was holding for Jessica for her divorce. “If he's willing to cheat on his wife, he's willing to cheat the law.”
“She wanted to file for divorce,” says Kshywonis. “She had an appointment Monday.”
At about 10:45 p.m., he continues, he thought he heard a gunshot while they were lying in bed.
“We heard something and said 'what was that',” recalls Browning.
“It sounded like a gunshot. I'm prior military so to me it sounded like a gunshot,” he tells DeMarco.
Matthew interviews with the GBI early that morning.
“I'm sure as you've heard, I'm getting a divorce. I was,” he says to the GBI agent. “Here recently she did confirm that the second baby's not mine. Which I knew that.”
Jessica, on a few occasions, hit and slapped him, he tells the GBI. Everything, he says, led to him wanting out of the marriage.
Matthew says that he told Jessica, “…I'm not happy anymore and I can't. I can't keep doing this.”
The agent then probes Matthew, asking if he has a girlfriend.
“I had a friend who was a girl, or is a girl,” he answers, further admitting that the relationship had become sexual.
Reliving his steps inside the apartment after he heard gunshots fired, he says, “My whole upper body went numb. I was scared to death, because I couldn't find [Tyler]—that she would shoot me, I mean shoot him, shoot me, and then kill herself.”
“After you got on the radio and you were outside communicating on the radio, you never went back in to actually check, check on the kids,” the agent questions Matthew about once he's out of the apartment.
“I didn't know if I was dealing with a possible active... active scenario where she still had the gun and she had shot Tyler,” he replies. “And I could have been the next target.”
The agent continues to interview Matthew, who's wearing a red hoodie, asking him if the clothes he was wearing were the ones he was wearing the entire night.
“Yes, I didn't have time, you know with everything going on, I didn't think anything about getting any other clothes, so I didn't know if y'all would want these or not. I didn't bring any other ones with me. I didn't wash may hands, nothing like that either, that way for GSR.”
“There's a possibility that we might collect your clothes…”
“OK. That's fine. Absolutely,” Matthew assures the agent. “I didn't, I didn't, I didn't try to brush off anything. I didn't try to wash my hands, anything, because I knew GSR and all that would be involved.”
“Yeah, if we've got to get the clothes, obviously we'll bring you back up to the apartment for you to get some clothes obviously,” says the agent.
“On something like this, does it usually take a while?”
“Right now it depends on what happens with Jessica, too. Her condition.”
Matthew met Jessica during her sophomore year of high school at open house in 2012. They had Tollin soon after, and were married on Oct. 24, 2015.
Jessica was a blushing bride, excited to spend the rest of her life with the man she loved.
Six months later, everything would change—for everyone.
April 20, 2016-
Five days after his wife was shot, Matthew talked with the GBI again. This time for a DNA consent.
“We're going to be doing that to do touch DNA on the gun, and um, and why we're doing that is obviously one to corroborate everything that's what believed happened, and that way it also, it also eliminates the possibility of her family saying, you had something involved in this, or whatever,” the GBI agent said to him.
“That's what they're all assuming,” Matthew said. “One of her aunts is all over Facebook.”
GBI agent said, “The bullet didn't even enter the skull…”
“It's like some of my family they hear all these people say, 'Oh I think he did it and it was planned.' It's like I tell them, they make it twice as bad because I'm a cop,” Matthew said.
“I know eventually the chief would eventually like to get his officer back as well as his service weapon back as well, so we're going to try to expedite this as fast as possible, and when I mean expedite you know, within the next few weeks to a month,” the agent said.
Jessica was still in a coma with a traumatic brain injury—tubes stemming from her brain to alleviate pressure and fluid. Her head shaved. Her mouth covered with a breathing apparatus and several machines attached to her monitoring her condition.
But this wasn't the end of Jessica's story, rather a new beginning—but not the one she was hoping for. After three weeks, she woke up.
On May 10, she was ready to talk.
From her hospital bed, she spoke to the GBI.
“I know that we got into an argument, but that's about all," she said, not remembering much of what had happened on April 15. She told the agent, they were at home when they argued about his mistress and the photo that Jessica found on his phone that night.
She found a photo on Snapchat of another woman wearing nothing but a towel, with the caption: “Shower time.”
The agent asked her if she had ever held her husband's service weapon.
“No. I can't even get it out of its case,” she replied. “He's asked me to go get it out before. I told him, 'You're going to have to go get it, because I can't get it out of the case.'”
“Do you know how it was that you got shot?”
She didn't—not a thing.
He continued to probe.
“Have you ever had any type of thoughts about hurting yourself?”
“No, never. Which is very off that this happened, because I never, ever had any thoughts like this before. Especially because of my children. I never wanted to hurt myself before,” she said, going on to say that she's never handled a gun, nor shot one.
He asked her what she thought could've happened.
“Honestly, I have no idea. I hadn't really put much thought into it,” Jessica told him.
“Do you think Matthew did something?” he asked her bluntly.
“It's possible, but I mean it's very doubtful, because he's never hurt me before. I mean he might have grabbed my arm before, but I don't think he would intentionally do anything to hurt me—but like I said, he's changed so much here, lately,” she said. “I don't know if it's just his job or what, but like I said I don't think he would intentionally hurt me.”
“They were calling me the miracle child… Because what I went through, not a lot of people survive through it,” she told 11Alive's Brendan Keefe, nearly six months after the incident—her golden blonde hair now growing back.
She made a full recovery, but doesn't remember a thing. GBI agents, however, have closed her case.
“They're saying it was self-inflicted,” she said.
But she doesn't buy it, especially since her head was “perfectly laid on a pillow,” she said after watching the bodycam footage. A lot, she said, doesn't add up.
GBI didn't report finding any blood spatter on the closet wall. However, Yates said, that's not that uncommon.
“What you have from a close range press contact wound is high-velocity blood spatter, which is very small, and it might not be very visible with the naked eye, or easily visible from photographs. I don't know,” he said.
There were two bullets, on different walls inside the closet. One of those bullets went through the roof, the other lodged into the baby's bedroom wall. No bullet fragments were recovered from her head.
The other problem: she said she didn't know how to get his gun out of his holster—nor has she ever held or shot a gun. She remembered an instance when Matthew asked her grab his gun.
“He was going to clean his gun and he asked me to go get it for him. Well I couldn't get it for him because I couldn't get it out of his gun holster,” she said.
But Yates said the holster is designed to have some retention capability.
“The purpose of it, is when you're fighting with somebody to keep the weapon from coming out of your holster, but it's certainly easy to take it out under most cases. If you play with it a little bit, it's not hard.”
But, Jessica said regardless of her knowledge of guns, she had every reason to live.
“I was looking for a job and I finally found one. They wanted me to come back Friday for orientation for the job,” she said. “I finally had the evidence that I needed that Matthew was cheating on me. And that's all I needed, so I was on cloud nine."
She rebukes the text message that came from her phone to Matthew's that night and said she didn't have a lock on her phone, so anyone could've sent it. She said there were too many errors and discrepancies for her to have sent it.
“It doesn't sound like anything I would say. There's so many useless words thrown in there, then there's so many words left out,” she said. “I would have said, 'I can't do this anymore, comma, take care of Tolin and Tyler, period.' I would have said, 'suicidal' not 'suicide thoughts.'”
And, she said, she wouldn't have told him that she loved him.
“I was excited I wasn't going to have to put up with him anymore because honestly I felt like his maid, and that's all I felt like.”
But Yates told 11Alive, Matthew was not the shooter and trusts the investigation's outcome.
“Did he cause his estranged spouse's injury? And based on the totality of circumstances, all the facts and circumstances, all the forensics, and the conclusion of the case, as well as the GBI's and the district attorney's recommendation, is no, he did not cause her injuries,” Yates concluded.
With the suicidal text message and Jessica's DNA found on her husband's gun, less than a month after her hospital bed interview, Matthew was verbally cleared by the GBI, according to the chief, and as of June 6, Matthew returned to full duty with a new service weapon on his hip.
Four days later, he appeared in court, wearing his police uniform, and testified that he had been cleared by the GBI in a custody hearing. He was there to tell the court that he wanted to keep Jessica away from him and their two sons, because he said, he feared for their safety—because she allegedly fired his gun in the house while their boys were home.
But Jessica's trauma surgeon, a 30-year veteran in the field, had a few thoughts of his own about what could have happened and what likely did not happen that night.
Dr. Vernon Henderson, chief of Trauma and Critical Care at Atlanta Medical Center was on-call the morning Jessica came in and treated her for the next month while she was in the hospital. He wrote a letter to Jessica's attorney June 10, in which he questioned the finding that Jessica's head injury was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, saying there was no investigation at the hospital. The doctor was not contacted by the GBI until July 20.
Henderson said in the letter, that he did not believe that Jessica's head injury was the result of a gunshot wound, and furthermore, questioned how she got the injury at all. He said the description of a self-inflicted gunshot wound “didn't fit,” noting her “pristine and unmarked” hands and calling it a “very unusual direction in which to point the gun at one's self with the intention of committing suicide.”
“First of all, the wound that she suffered was toward the vertex of her skull on the right side of her head; this would imply that she shot herself with a gun pointed downward near the top of her skull.”
The second most striking observation he said he made while assessing Jessica was “neither of her hands had any evidence of any gunpowder stippling from gunpowder blowback.”
Furthermore, he said, it's his observation that self-inflicted gunshot wounds are very unusual among women.
Matthew's attorney, however, told the court that Jessica was the one who shot the gun and that initially, Matthew believed that she was shooting at him.
“He cautiously went into the residence to try to make sure that the children were OK. He was able to confirm that they were all right.”
If his wife, Matthew's attorney continued, was capable of attempting to take her own life, there's a chance that she might do something to their children.
Even though doctors were able to save her life, they couldn't save her from what was about to happen to her family—losing custody of her children. The court ruled in his favor, giving him custody, and granting Jessica once-weekly supervised visitation.
“[I miss] getting to see them every day and getting to watch them grow more and more into the boys and men that they're going to be someday,” Jessica said sobbing.
While Jessica believes someone tried taking her life from her, she refuses to allow anyone to take her kids away from her.
Her bright blues eyes glisten as they well with emotion.
“They're my everything. I wouldn't trade them for anything no matter the situation. I wouldn't trade those two boys for anything," she said, swiping away tears streaming down both cheeks.
11Alive reached out to the GBI and Officer Matthew Boynton, however, neither returned our phone calls. Officer Boynton hung up and did not respond to multiple messages, while the GBI refused to talk about the closed case. GBI director Vernon Keenan wrote a letter indicating the gunshot wound was self-inflicted by Jessica, closing the case.