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I was born to be a Mother I don’t remember a time in my life growing up when I didn’t want to have children. I tried for years before I found out that I would have to be artificially inseminated in order to have Matt. When preparing for my first insemination I had been advised not to get to excited because it rarely took on the first try. But I was one of the lucky ones or so I thought, less than three weeks after my first insemination I discovered I was pregnant. I was overjoyed but it only lasted a short time and by the time I was eight weeks I had lost the baby. After a miscarriage, bouts with depression and several more attempts, Matt was finally conceived. He was my little angel - he truly was my gift from God and that is where he got his name, Matthew, meaning a gift from God.
Matt was everything you could ever want in a son he was sweet, loving, and thoughtful he cared about everyone and their feelings. He always put everyone before himself he was so selfless and giving he never wanted anyone to feel bad or left out. He was smart, so funny and quick witted. He was always up for anything no matter how lame or physically strenuous. He was an incredible athlete there was nothing he couldn’t do, I miss watching him play basketball and throw a frisbee and football. I miss he and his brother Travis playing catch with the baseball or playing basketball in the street while I am finishing up dinner and going out and telling them it’s ready. I miss coming around the corner and seeing his car in the in front of the house and my heart skipping a beat because Matt is home and him calling out “Hi Mom” and coming to the car to give me a big hug and kiss. I miss sitting on the couch with him and watching TV those nights until I couldn’t stay awake any longer. Only to get up a couple hours later to see that he is still flipping through the channels because he doesn’t have cable in Chico and wants to get his fill in before finally falling asleep.
I miss talking to him on the phone for 45 minutes to an hour while he is running around in his car, going to the post office, the bank, walking around campus or sitting in the drive thru. I miss having him surprise me at work and take me to lunch. I miss having him sit across the table at dinner and knowing that I will never make another meal for him. I miss hearing him say, “I love you Mom”. I miss his smiling face and loving heart.
I miss all the trips we will never take together again as a family Matt loved spending time with the family. He would always rearrange his busy schedule to make sure he could make every trip, every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and every birthday or just come home to spend the day or night. I miss his gifts, he was the greatest and most thoughtful gift giver he always knew just what to get you, you always looked forward to his presents. I miss that I will not get to throw him his college graduation party I started planning in August 2004 a week after we moved him to Chico, we were all so proud of him we knew how successful he was going to be.
What we have lost in Matt can never be replaced as one of my nephews said he was the shining star of the cousins. Matt was the shining star of all of our lives; he was the one that we all aspire to be like. Everyone loved Matt you couldn’t help yourself there was nothing not to love. Over 600 people came to his service to pay their respects and as his friend Andrew put it those were only the ones that could make it, imagine how many people would have been there if everyone that wanted to be there could have been.
Our lives have been shattered and will never be the same I will never dance with him at his wedding, we will never see Matt become a father, he would have been an incredible father. Travis’ children will never know their uncle Matt. Their children will never grow up together hearing their parents kid each other about how they grew up and talking about things they did together. I will never get to hold Matt’s children my grandchildren and see Matt in their precious faces. I’ll never be able to say he looks just like you, or you used to do that when you were little. So much has been taken from us not just in our everyday life but also our future. Matt was meant for greatness his potential in life was unlimited he had the world at his feet and was so focused on his future. He was full of life and joy, the possibilities for Matt were endless but that was taken from him and us.
The morning of Wednesday, February 2, 2005 will forever be imbedded in my memory as the most devastating day of my life. I will never forget getting the call from Greg at 6:15am telling me that something had happened to Matt that he was in a hospital in Chico, and we had to find him. My heart sank I knew it was bad I felt it, I knew that something very bad had happen to my baby as I cried out, “No, not Matt”. I quickly called 411 and asked for numbers of all the hospitals in Chico and got only one.
I called the number and explained that my son, Matt Carrington, was in a hospital in Chico but I wasn’t sure which one that this was the only number given to me. The person on the other end said that they were the only hospital in Chico and would see if he was there. Another person got on the phone and asked if I was alone and I began to cry more and told her my other son is here Matt’s younger brother he’s 14. She said that I would need to speak to the doctor. At this point I screamed to Travis who was on the phone with Greg to tell Dad to come home now.
When the doctor got on the line he said that Matt had been found in the basement of a frat house, he wasn’t breathing when the paramedics got there and when he was brought to the hospital he was at full arrest. He said he was in critical condition and to get to the hospital as soon as we could but not to drive myself. I told him that my husband was on his way home from the city and should be here in about 20 or 30 minutes. I asked the doctor who was at the hospital with Matt and he said no one that Matt was alone. I asked him to please do whatever he could to save Matt. My mind went crazy, ALONE, why is he alone! Why isn’t someone with him? What did they do to him? What could have possibly happened to my baby? What were they doing up at this time in the morning on a school night? What happened to Matt? I began to call numbers but couldn’t reach anyone, phones weren’t being answered and when they were they were going straight to voice mail. I called my friend Bobbie her husband, Bill, had called Greg to tell him about Matt he had gotten a call from their daughter Kristi in Merced who got a call from Mike Quintana. But Bobbie didn’t know anything, I couldn’t reach Kristi but that didn’t matter because she didn’t know anything. Nobody knew anything and all I knew is that my son was 3 hours away from home alone in a hospital possibly dying and I needed to get to him. He needed his mother.
Stephanie, a social worker, began calling me to make sure that I was okay. This set off alarms in my head, why is a social worker calling me I kept thinking. But nothing at this point mattered all I knew was that I had to get to my baby I had to be there with him, I had to hold him, he needed me and I needed to be with him. I called my sister Frankie and told her that Matt was in the hospital in Chico in critical condition and we were leaving as soon as Greg got here. I told her it didn’t sound good. She said I am leaving work and will meet you up there. Every minute seemed like 20 as Travis and I waited anxiously for Greg to get home. My mind was going a million miles a minute my despair was overwhelming. I tried to remember things I thought we might need because I didn’t know how long we would be there. I told Travis to call his baseball coach because he would not be at practice. I told him to try and eat something because I didn’t know when he would have that opportunity again and it was a long drive. Get something warm it will probably be cold there. We need water for the ride up. Get my phone charger from my car because the hospital has my number and I will need to stay in communication with them. Where is Greg, why is he taking so long? Matt, Matt what did they do to you? I need to be with Matt, he needs me. Where is Greg why isn’t he here yet? We have go to get to Matt. What happened? Why is he alone? He shouldn’t be alone, why isn’t someone with him? I need to be with him he needs me. Where’s Greg? Travis call dad and see how much longer? Matt, Matt, I love you honey, hang on we’re coming.
Stephanie continued to call me to see where we were and how we were doing. I told her that Greg was still on his way but we should be on the road shortly. Finally Greg pulled up, I called to Travis “Dad is here let’s go sweetie we’ve got to get to Matt”. We jumped in the truck and were on our way. We all wondered out loud what could have possibly happened? What were they doing down there I thought the pledging was over? Why were they up at that time on a school night? Why wasn’t someone with Matt, how could they leave him alone? Our sweet Matt what did they do to you? We knew that it couldn’t have been drugs or alcohol because Matt was too smart for that. We taught him at young age the dangers of drugs and excess alcohol, what could it have been?
An hour and half into the drive with an hour and half to go Stephanie called again. I couldn’t take it anymore, I told her I need to know what is going on with my son. I know it’s bad I need to know are we going to make it in time? I begged her to tell me the truth about my baby. She finally said we don’t like to give this news over the phone. I began to cry she said, “I’m sorry Debbie, Matt didn’t make it” this scream came out of me from deep within my being, then “No, NOT MATT!” I don’t know what happened with the phone at that point. Travis was crying behind me, Greg was crying next to me and beginning to drive erratically. I couldn’t reach Travis I said “Greg pull off the freeway we need to be together as a family”. He pulled off and into a gas station parking lot where we all got out of the car and hugged each other in our traditional family hug but this time without Matt, our family hugs would never be the same. Oh God, not Matt, not our sweet Matt who never did anything to anyone not the light of our lives, God not Matt. How could this happen? What could they have possibly done to him?
When we arrived at the hospital and were finally taken to Matt we were told before we could see him that we would not be able to touch him. I cried in pain, what? I need to hold my baby. Stephanie said that the coroner had to do an autopsy first so his body could not be disturbed. I turned and saw a covered body at the end of the room and said is that Matt? Stephanie said yes. My knees began to buckle. As we approached him I was hoping against hope that there had been a mistake but something inside of me felt that my sweet baby boy was really gone. As we got closer I saw his right arm, which was not covered and I began to shake, oh God Matt’s arm. As Stephanie slowly pulled the sheet from his head I saw his perfect hair and began to weep, Matt, I need to touch him I have to hold him he’s my baby. He had tubes coming out of him and blood and something else all over he was a mess and they wouldn’t let me hold him he had to lay there all alone, he had been alone way too long. I didn’t want to leave him like that, I wanted to take care of him but they wouldn’t let me there was nothing that I could do. Then I remembered that Travis had gone back to the grieving room because he didn’t want to see Matt like that and I needed to get to him he needed me too.
After speaking with the police we went back to Matt’s house where I crawled into his unmade bed covered myself with his blankets and the cloths he had changed out of before he left and breathed in Matt. My baby is gone what will we do without him? How will our perfect family go on? We will never be the perfect family again? We will never be the same what do we do next?
I cry uncontrollably everyday for my precious son some days are so bad it will just go on for hours. I hate that the last three days of Matt’s life were so torturous, I hate that I was not there to protect him as I had his whole life. My pain is so great that at times I don’t know how I am going to make it I just want Matt back so badly I want my family back the way it was, perfect, but I know that is something that will never happen. My life will never be the same our lives will never be the same, life, as we knew it, is gone forever.
I know that Matt’s death was never intended and I believe or hope that those involved are very sorry for what they did. But because of their actions and selfishness a sweet and selfless boy is gone forever. And for their actions they must be punished, this is how we teach our children right from wrong. I hope that whatever their punishment is they learn from it and their actions the morning of February 2 and become better people for it. I hope that they will want to teach others from their mistakes by telling their story about how they took the life of such a wonderful person they called “brother” and letting them know how wrong they were so that other lives can be saved and through this maybe we can someday put a stop to hazing altogether.
Our Last Christmas
The last picture we will ever take together
Our son Matt was tragically taken from us last February 2, 2005. His brother, his mother and myself will never be the same our lives were forever changed that morning because of an incredibly stupid and heinous act done to him by his so-called brothers to be. I know one thing for sure with brothers like that he would have been better off with strangers – they would have helped him in his time of need.
I would like to tell everyone a little about a gift to this world name Matt that truly made everyone around him a better person. I met Matt when he was about 2 years old he had the biggest brown eyes and most precious face I had ever seen, you truly fell in love with the innocent spirit of this beautiful little boy. I was very fortunate to get him included in the deal when I was lucky enough to marry his Mother Debbie. I know a lot of people would consider this baggage when the woman you marry already has a child, but in my case it was better than winning the lottery.
It was a such joy watching him grow up, teaching him to ride a bike, skateboard, throw a frisbee, play football, basketball, paper football or any indoor sport in the living room until his mother put an end to it due to a couple of accidental breakages. Watching Matt try wake boarding or snowboarding were full of great moments. We would go camping a lot, beach, river and lake it didn’t matter as long as we were all together. I will never forget Matt’s first fishing trip he 4 ½ years old we were at Lake Berryessa, fishing was slow at best and I noticed an unusually large minnow in the bait bucket so when he wasn’t looking I put it on his hook. He was so excited to catch his first fish and of course I had to clean it. He would love to watch me clean fish and hold the guts and watch the heart take its last beats and cook and eat it.
I remember when Matt was little I would make him swim with me to an Island or some distant point without a life jacket. The day he past this test and could make it without my help his mother and I felt he could be around the water without a life vest on. We were so proud that day as we would be many times as he grew up. Matt was 7 when his mother gave birth to his little brother Travis, he had a soccer game that day so I went and got him and brought him to the hospital to see his new brother and his mother. He was so precious as he held his brother and looked into his eyes, you could see the bond immediately. It wasn’t long after that Matt and I were teaching Travis everything we knew about camping, swimming, fishing and sports together, those were such great times.
Matt excelled at basketball and inevitably there came a day that I wanted the side with wind to my back to throw a football or a Frisbee with him, he had developed quite an arm and was a tremendous athlete there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do and do well.
The best Father’s Day present I ever received was when Matt was 12 ½ years old. There is a time in any child’s life when they get tired of playing stuff with their dad but I would still ask Matt almost everyday to play something with me. When I opened my Father’s Day gift from Matt I found that he had made me a bunch of what looked like business cards that stated “any time, anywhere, any sport, I picked he would have to play it with me no matter what non-negotiable. He was always so thoughtful that way and I was so thrilled to get such a valuable gift, thank you Matt.
There are so many great things Matt became as he grew up, a great son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend, student, athlete and just a beautiful soul. I’m so glad we got to go to the mountains a couple of years ago for our 1 st and only white Christmas. And last Father’s Day Matt and Travis went on their first salmon fishing trip. They both got sick on the way back but Matt caught the biggest salmon that day and was so proud of it.
Matt your Mother and myself are so proud of you we love you so much, not a day goes but that you’re not missed more than you could ever imagine. Travis is putting up a good front and a stiff upper lip but he will never be the same without his big bro! I can’t tell you how difficult that February morning was. I can’t even imagine what you must have gone through, seizure, freezing cold, couldn’t control your bodily functions; bleeding out, heart dysrhythmia, and all that time nobody did anything to save your life. I was at work and received a call shortly after 6am that morning from Bill Vahl, he said that Kristi called him and said you were in the hospital and we needed to call and find out what was going on. I hung up and called Mom and told her so she could find the phone number to the hospital in Chico and try to find out what was wrong. After I hung up and waited to hear from her I had the most terrible feeling in my gut, I was so scared something serious was wrong with you. I called your phone number and with every ring I thought oh man I’m gonna wake him up and that would have been a great thing, finally you’re message picked up. Hi this is Matt, leave a message. It was so comforting to hear your recorded voice but that wasn’t going to do.
I couldn’t wait for Mom to call me any longer so I called her back to see if she had found out anything, her phone didn’t pick up so I figured she was still talking to the hospital. Not being able to wait I called Travis on his phone and asked what’s up he said Mom was still talking to the people at the hospital. Then in the background I heard her scream very loudly, “TELL YOUR FATHER TO GET HOME NOW!” I said to Travis I’d be there as soon as I can. I told Adam at work the jobsite was his to run and I ran out of that building and drove as fast as I could to get home. While in route I got a hold of Mom she didn’t know much except the doctor told her we should get there as soon as possible. I got home and Travis, Mom and I headed to Chico a 3-hour drive. The first 20 minutes of the drive seemed like an hour or 2.
We were about 90 minutes into the trip Mom had been talking with a woman at Enloe Hospital she was hysterical and told the lady we have to know if you were going to make it or not or had a chance or anything. We were driving 90 to 100 mph and she said to Mom we don’t like telling people this over the phone and made sure Mom wasn’t driving then she told Mom the worst thing a parent can hear. I’m sorry Matt didn‘t make it. Mom screamed so loud Travis and I knew it was fatal! We had to pull off the freeway, mom was hysterical, Travis was in the back crying I was in shock and couldn’t believe what was happening. We pulled over and parked hugged each other and cried for some time then we got to you as soon as possible. Your Mother, brother and myself just had our heats and souls ripped from our bodies, we have never had anything this devastating happen to our family, not our precious so Matt.
We finally arrived and they took us back to see you and told Mom, Travis and me that we couldn’t touch you. Matt can you imagine we were going to see you and couldn’t touch you? That messed me up, Travis decided that he didn’t want to see you like that so someone took him back to a room too wait for us and they took Mom and me to see to you. When they pulled the sheet off your head you could see your perfect little hair-do you always had and then Mom and I had the worst moment of our lives, it was really you! We were devastated! How? Why? What? How could this have happened to you? But they didn’t know anything that had happened to you because those damn Greek Brother’s had lied and said you were just down in that basement cleaning and doing calisthenics all night and they didn’t know what was wrong with you. The next several hours were like days, it was the worst of times our lives were destroyed.
Your candle light vigil was really nice, so many people so many nice things said of you. Your roommates Molly and Sarah were so sweet but also messed up. Tom Martinsen brought Aaron, Elliot, Joey, Halley and Michael all up from the neighborhood. Both Mom’s and my families were all there; your best friends Mark, Andrew, Jeff and Erwin were up immediately. All of your friends old and new wanted to kick some ass but refrained, you would have been so proud of them. Matt your service was so beautiful over 500 people so upset, it was incredible we will always treasure all the support we received. I could go on and on but I have so much to say I need to move on Matt.
Matt one thing I want you to know. I love you so much and I couldn’t have been prouder of you that I already was. You were truly the most precious son a Dad could ever have had the pleasure of raising. I wish I could hug you one more time. I’m going to miss not getting to see you graduate from college, get into your career, get married and have children of your own or play just another game of horse or frisbee or paper football with you.
Your Mom is having a terrible time she misses you so much she’s always crying. Travis and I try to keep her spirits up but it is going to take a long time and we will still never be the same. Travis misses you – man it sucks no more bro to play sports with or videos games or watch TV or listen to CD’s with any more. Matt you were the person he looked up to, you set the bar and he wanted to raise it.
I do know one thing for sure these young men that were in that house that night don’t have an ounce of responsibility or give a damn about anything but their Greek system. You know a lot of these guys said oh I didn’t want it to keep going on or I felt sorry for him and let him use the bathroom once, instead of making you go on yourself or filled the 5 gallon bottle with warm water one time or grabbed your pants and helped you do push ups. Screw that. If they really gave a damn, and I don’t care which one just one of them could have made the difference, if they would have just stopped it but they didn’t not one of them.
Matt, I can’t believe it. I know you wouldn’t have let anybody die in that damn basement, but not one of them could stand up and be a man, not one of them. I don’t know what is going to happen to these guys but I wish they would all rot in hell.
Matt your Mom, Travis and myself will never get over this, we will always keep you in our hearts. We will never ever stop thinking about you, by remembering how you lived your life hopefully it will get us through the rest of ours without you in it. We love you forever MATT.
Matt's first fish
Matt became quite the little fisherman
Our perfect Christmas 2003
My name is Travis Smith Matt was my Brother; Matt was the best brother a kid could ask for. Matt was the best influence on me; he taught me how to ride a bike and to ride roller blades. Whenever we played sports with all of the kids from the neighborhood, he would always help me out even if I was on the other team. I was always the youngest out of the gang and whenever we played baseball I was always better then everybody except for this one guy Mike and Matt. And not everyone liked a 6 or 7 year old kid being better then them when your 11 or 12. So some of the kids would get a little flustered but only like 1 or 2 but Matt would always back me up stand up for me but I don’t think they would do anything anyway but it’s the only example I could think of.
Even when Matt moved to Chico he still would come home all the time, for my birthday: or fathers day, mothers day, and other birthdays and all holidays. Then the morning we heard Matt was in the hospital I thought no big deal probably just broke something or is unconscious. But when I heard on the way to see him in the hospital that he didn’t make it all the memories ran through my head all the good times and then thinking he would never come home again no one to hang out with when we go on vacation I couldn’t stop from crying. Matt was always the best person, friend, son, nephew, and the best brother. Matt, I will never forget you.
We loved Matt very much and the loss to us and all who knew him is felt very deeply. He was such a good person, very caring and thoughtful of other people. Perhaps that is why this terrible and senseless thing happened to him. He trusted people and I’m sure he never thought they would be so cruel and heartless.
A day does not go by without thinking of him. He had a good future all planned out. We are so thankful we seen him at Christmas. As usual he had a big smile and a hug when he came in the house. Pop had a chance to visit with him and so glad he did. Pop said how he had grown up and how proud of him he was.
The last thing I said to him was, I love you very much Matt and he gave me a big hug and said I love you too Gram and he left. That was the last time we seen him. Lots of tears have been shed through the past months and I am sure there will be a lot more as time passes.
We Miss you Matt.
Love, Pop and Gram
I'm sorry this is so late. I've been traveling. I wanted to be sure you received this in time for the court hearing on Friday. I don't have access to my pc so have to send via my blackberry.
I would like to convey to the judge, as he is deciding on the sentencing, what a great loss this has been for all of us. Matthew was one of the finest young men I have met. He was caring and considerate. He was polite and giving. He was respectful and appreciative. He was focused and determined. He was driven and goal oriented. He had all the attributes of a leader. He was special and qualities like Matt's are hard to find these days.
I know he touched many lives in his short time here with us. This was evident by the number of people that attended his candlelight vigil in Chico (many from out of town). It was also evident when we had standing room only at his memorial service in Alamo (in a church with a seating capacity for 600). Losing him as part of our family - the role model amongst his cousins - has been a tremendous loss for all of us.
I was so proud of Matt when we talked about his goals and ambitions to go into accounting. I loved accounting and felt a connection with him. And I loved when we'd talk about business. He was all grown up and reading to make his mark on the world. I remember how focused he was, working at Kinko’s and taking such a heaving load at DVC so that he could transfer into Chico. I was looking forward to seeing him graduate and hoping this would serve to motivate my own boys.
Instead of a graduation we attended a candlelight vigil. Instead of helping you plan a celebration party - we were planning a funeral.
His death has been so difficult for all of us. It was so senseless. It was so cruel. It was so careless. It was so selfish of those boys to worry about themselves and the trouble they might get into instead of the life threatening situation and subsequent death of a young man they "called" their friend. I hope the sentencing reflects the punishment warranted for this irresponsible act. I hope that others will learn that this isn't a game, and lives, precious lives, can be lost.
I'm sorry I can't be there with you, as my plane doesn't leave NY until 4pm.
Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you!
Angie Birdwell, Matt’s Aunt
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld
Carolyn Castro (Auntie Carol)
When someone asks you to describe what a person meant to you, it is such a large topic in the case of "Matt".
It began when he was just a little guy (1 1/2 years. He was a Cutie pie. Always very well behaved, a pleasure to have around. I watched him grow into a fine young man until one day a tragic incident took his life and all that he had to look forward to in this world. Never in a million would I think that Matt would leave us in this world in such a painful and senseless way.
Anyone that knew Matt would tell you what a fun loving, happy go lucky young man that he was all of his life. He always made me laugh. He was kind, thoughtful and at the last days of his life he became very focused, wanting to better himself and learn to survive in this world on his own. Unfortunately he won't have that chance. We only get one chance life, and Matt's was taken very early.
I see young kids dating, having relationships with others, enjoying life and all that it has to give and think of Matt and where he would be in that crowd. Unfortunately he won't have that chance! I can say this he will be missed, very much.
What a senseless and very tragic death of a very dear young man. They say, only the good die young and Matt fits in that category!
I will miss "Matt" and always have a space in my heart for "him". May God be with him!
I loved him. I will always keep the memories of the 21 years that you were here in my mind. As uncle Marco said thanks for the memories.
Your Name: Peggy Setencich
Victim's Name: Matthew Carrington
Court Case Number:
I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would have to be writing this. I cannot believe my nephew Matt Carrington is gone. I think about him every day. I remember the day he was born and thinking what a wonderful blessing he was. As he grew older I saw him grow into a fine young man. He was very sweet, caring, generous and a pleasure to be around. He had his whole life ahead of him and it was senselessly cut short by these terrible acts of violence. They were all negligent.--something should have been done and could have been done, yet these young men chose to do NOTHING! No one should have to endure these senseless “rituals” that are not only harmful, but DEADLY!! This kind of treatment must stop and these young men must be punished.
One life has affected so many, we have lost a son, brother, grandchild, nephew, friend, neighbor. It breaks my heart to see Matt’s family have to go through this horrific ordeal. I’ll never again hear Hi Auntie Peggy. I’ll never see him again. It will never be the same.
Of one thing I am sure…Matt was loved by many and will never be forgotten. We will all work to make others aware of the terrible risks involved in hazing. Punishing the offenders in this case will be a step in the right direction.
I was at work when I received the call from Debbie that Matt had been rushed to emergency, she was hysterical, and had no other information. I had to e-mail people in order to leave, look up the address of “Enloe” the only information Debbie had, and get driving directions. I also had to call my sister Angie to let her know. Angie had waited months to get her daughter in to see a specialist so she was going to drive up later. We were sure at that time that it was going to be one of those long emergency room waits, never considering that it could be worse.
It wasn’t long after I got on the road I received a second call from Debbie, hysterical, “He didn’t make it!” I still can’t get her voice out of my head. I hear it, and wonder will I ever have to say something like that to anyone in my family about one of my boys. “He didn’t make it”. Those were the same words the hospital had told her, when she demanded to know his real condition since she still had nearly two hours to go to get to Chico. I slammed on my brakes, pulled off the road, and screamed and cried. Then I pulled into traffic, took the next exit and parked my car. I sat in the car crying hysterically. My first thought was of how it happened, had he suffered? Had he been drugged? Even though he attended “ Chico” the ‘party school’, knowing Matt I knew he hadn’t overdosed or drank too much, because Matt was the responsible one. He knew how to have a good time, but how to not take it to excess. He loved a good time, he loved family, friends, life, laughter, sports, video games and being outdoors. He worked hard and played hard, he had morals, and ethics, and was an example of everything good in this world. He was what my sister Angie and I wished our boys could be. He was special, and no one could or would be like Matt, ever. I called Angie and had to tell her, and she rearranged her schedule, finding an alternate to take her daughter to the doctor and told me to come straight to her home, that she would drive. I doubt I could have driven that day, and in fact, I still am not sure how I made it to her house. Imagine during that long drive, having to call your father and tell him his grandson is dead, and your brother to tell him his nephew is dead, and no, I don’t know how it happened. I had to tell my children, I told them over the phone.
Those of us who knew and loved Matt, and I would like to hope that includes the boys down in that basement, know we have lost something so special we may never see it again in our lifetimes. That one person who would stand up for what is right, and what he believed in. He treated people with respect and kindness, always gave people a chance to prove their worth, never judged people from appearance, or what they had or didn’t have, and always was fair. He stood up to bullies and protected those weaker than him, he nurtured his younger brother, as no older brother I have known. I wish my boys could be as loving to each other as Matt was to Travis. Matt not only adored Travis, he always took time to include the younger cousins, including my youngest, who is only 8 years old. When everyone was telling my son “go inside, you are too young to play” Matt was bent down, showing his young cousin how to hold and throw a football. Although my son was not yet five, he talks about it still.
The last time I spent with Matt was our Las Vegas trip, since I take my camera everywhere, I had decided I was going to chronicle his 21 st birthday and even warned him of my intent, and make his mom a scrapbook, which he could have someday. The picture we wear on our badges, that is on our decals, his website, and flyers, was taken the first day of that trip, in the airport. This is the Matt I will always remember, with the larger than life smile. I only got a few pictures that week after all, since his friends drove up and we never saw him again until Thanksgiving, when the guys had gone home. On this night, the last of our trip, rather than go to the casino, a bar, or a girlie show like any other 21-year-old, Matt came to my sister Angie’s room, and played Skip-Bo with his Aunts and Uncle. Crazy as it sounds, he stayed for several hours. That was the kind of young man he was, taking the time out of his trip to make sure we knew that he felt we were important to him. It had become a tradition to spend each Thanksgiving together several years before, and we had our annual Sisters/Cousins gift exchange, but that year Matt was still at Chico on the day we could all get together, so we didn’t see him after our Vegas trip, and my last memory is of him standing near the luggage carousel, making sure I got all my bags, even though he had his, and Greg was already out the door trying to get them all onto the next shuttle. Matt wouldn’t leave us there until he knew we all had our bags, and I thought of that during the candlelight vigil when Andrew spoke, one of his very best friends, saying that they had always said “no one gets left behind” and that the last person anyone would leave behind would be Matt. I felt honored that he included his Aunt, Uncle and cousins in those he valued enough to “not leave behind”, and I will treasure that thought always.
On February 2 nd, 2005, I lost my nephew. I will picture his beautiful face in my mind forever, his baby face, his teen face and his happy 21-year-old face. I will keep his portrait up at my house, so that my children always remember the kindness of their cousin who always had time for them. I lost my nephew, and I also lost a huge part of my sister, because she is no longer whole. Her heart was broken that morning when she received the news, and it will never be fully repaired. I can’t even describe how much it hurts to see her pain, and know that I can’t help her.
I know in my heart that Debbie would not want these young men to be put away for life, but I do know that she needs to see them punished fairly for their actions, we all do, but Debbie is more compassionate then most mothers who have lost their child could ever be, and Matt got his beautiful soul from his mother. I beg you, for my sister, for my family, for the boys to understand the severity of what they have done, please make sure their sentences are adequate to the suffering they have caused. Let them learn in a way that doesn’t break their spirit, but helps them to understand the severity of their actions.
Matt at the airport before leaving for Vegas
Marco Castro (Uncle)
I met little Matt when he was only 1 1/2 years old. He was always smiling! What a cute little face. I went to Yosemite every year for 15 years along with Matt and the family. Camping at Lake Mc Swain, Santa Cruz . Yes he was always with us. He was a part of our family. I became "uncle Marco" and my wife was "auntie Carol".
We watched him grow up, always very respectful and caring. Very focused, a serious student but best of all a very fine human being. He had so much to give, and to contribute to this world. What a senseless crime.
Yes, we will miss him forever. We are now forced to go through our lives with that empty space in our hearts without the part of us that they took. And now that he is gone, it hurts to see Greg and Debbie (brother and sister-in-law) with so much pain. I have no idea of how much they hurt, but I do know that it is intense pain. I wish we could help them ease their pain but how???????
There will never be closure for our family. There will always be that open wound. It will never heal! Yes we will miss Matt, "forever!" Thank you for the lovely memories.
Hero. I don’t think I could find a more appropriate word to describe my friend Matt. Although it may seem like a short time, the five years I knew Matt was all it took to discover a friendship I had hoped would last forever. Soon, there were five of us in a circle of friends that eventually went by the name of The Century 5, taken after our place of work where most of us had met for the first time. Out of the five within the group, I think Matt always remained the most open minded, down to earth, and inviting to anyone he came into contact with.
Through long days at work, road trips, countless hours at Denny’s and in front of the TV, our group had everything we needed. Through the years, jobs changed for many within the group, but the friendships always grew stronger.
I will never forget the phone call I received one afternoon in early February, from a number I did not recognize. The caller was Matt’s mom, and at first the thought of something wrong jumped in my mind, but was quickly dismissed as Matt was the last person I could imagine anything serious happening to. It took only seconds before I heard the bad news, and Matt’s mom breaking down in tears over the phone. I lost all train of thought and didn’t know what to think or how to handle what I’d hoped wasn’t true. I could only ask her more questions as to how and why it had happened. Letting the other guys know was no easy task, and I felt it only appropriate to go up and see for our selves what had really happened. We left the night we heard the news and met up with Matt’s family the following morning.
Going into that basement, was nowhere near as hard as seeing Matt for the last time at the funeral home. Our friend, whom we had only been used to seeing asleep on road trips, or at the conclusion of late night gatherings, had closed his eyes for the last time. I broke down outside the funeral home only minutes before we saw him, knowing that nothing we said directly to him that day would trigger a response, or joke of any kind. Inside, we stood with him for several minutes with his family, and then were also given the opportunity to mourn as a group. It was the last time the five of us would ever physically be in the same room again.
Leaving Chico that night, we left quietly, and didn’t really speak a word to each other on the way home. We were all thinking of our fondest memories, and at the same time disappointed at all the forthcoming memories we would be making the rest of our lives, memories we knew would now be without Matt.
This past summer, the group’s remaining four took another road trip, of which I don’t think a moment went by, without the thought of someone missing from the group. The fun we had could’ve been much more had Matt been with us.
Matt taught me many things about life, some of which were hard for me to prioritize at the time, or that I had taken for granted too often. He ALWAYS held his family and friends as his first priority above anything else in his life, and how he always managed to find time for all of us in addition to his studies and his job, is a method I wish I could’ve paid more attention to.
We have been haunted every day with Matt’s death, but most sadly with the realization of every event he won’t be attending in the future: road trips, holidays, vacations, birthdays, graduations, weddings, newborns, the list can go on. What really stinks about the situation is that Matt didn’t choose to die, these guys on trial right here made the decision for him.
These guys on trial right now were all present at some point in that hellhole of a basement, which they created, the night leading up to Matt’s death. What upsets me the most from the facts and testimony involved in this trial are not the details of torture for which they put him through, it’s the details of the aftermath which bother me. They let Matt die alone, by himself, with no concern over anyone’s well being other than their own.
Where was the friend to watch over Matt after he passed out?
Where was the intelligence in calling for help when it could’ve actually helped Matt?
Where was the “BROTHER”, to be with Matt through his last breath? There was no one in the ambulance, and there was no one at the hospital. I can’t think of another action as cold or inhumane.
What were these guys all doing after the night got out of hand? They were probably all planning how to avoid the consequences of their actions that they knew might affect their future.
These guys have already proved to be true human definitions of what it takes to be selfish and cowardly, however, they need to discover the true meaning of a few words they’ve missed somewhere along the way. Let me be one of the first to educate:
BROTHERHOOD--- The state or quality of being a brother
TRUST----------------To rely on, to believe in
RESPECT------------To honor, or have consideration for
By allowing the defendants to walk away from this trial without consequences in hand, it shows no hope. No hope for a lesson to be taught, no hope for a lesson to be learned, and an open gate for more innocent lives to be lost in the future. What is it going to take to put a stop to this? A statement needs to be made on how unacceptable this behavior is, and what zero tolerance should stand for it.
Matt Carrington was a hero to all of us when he was alive, and now, although no longer with us in physical form, he remains a hero in our hearts----always and forever, as his spirit lives on in all who were connected with him.
Your Name: Bill Vahl
Victim's Name: Matt Carrington
Court Case Number:
My name is Bill Vahl and I’d like to tell you that I knew Matt just about his entire life. Matt was a wonderful kid and grew up to be an even better young adult. He was a great friend to many people. He was kind, loving, and a very giving person. I was crushed the morning of February 2 nd as events unfolded. How in the world could this tragedy happen! It is unbelievable that in this age – such barbaric events are allowed to go on!
My wife went to Chico State, my oldest daughter graduated from Chico State. That’s how Matt ended up there. He moved into my daughter’s vacant room when she left. You have no idea how my family feels about my best friend’s child losing his life up in Chico. I’ve cried, been furious, every emotion you can think of, we’ve been through. It still doesn’t feel real. We will never again enjoy his company, his wit, and his easygoing attitude that made him a very special person. He was cheated out of becoming the great person he was destined to be. I’m sure this wasn’t an intentional act by these people, but the fact remains. Matt is DEAD! By their doing. I can only hope that a tragedy such as this won’t happen again. The pain will live within our family for a very very long time. The torture these young men had to endure is inexcusable. How could any one be put through this and expect to gain from the experience? They are in college for god’s sake! I still cannot believe this happened in a town such as Chico.
Your Name: Bobbie Vahl
Victim's Name: Matt Carrington
Court Case Number:
Greg and Debbie Smith are my best friends. Even though we are not blood relatives they along with Matt and Travis are definitely a part of my family. Our families are very close. We celebrate holidays together and go on vacations together and are there for each other just like most families are. I loved Matt and his death has overwhelmed me - such a senseless waste of life – that never should have happened!!!! Losing Matt has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with.
His death feels like a horrible nightmare that I can never wake up from. The loss of Matt has truly devastated my entire family. I honestly didn’t know what a broken heart was until February 2 nd when I got the phone call from my husband tearfully telling me that Matt had actually died. My heart truly broke at that instant and I felt like the world fell out from under my feet. There was no possible way Matt could be dead! Not Matt! No Way ! How could this happen? Why did this happen? What actually happened?
My very next thought was that my best friends Greg and Debbie would never be able to live through this. How does a parent go on when their child is dead? How do you help your best friends live through something this horrendous? There are no words of comfort you can offer because there is no comfort to give when your child is taken from you.
I’ve known Matt since he was two years old. I watched him grow from a cute little shy kid to a strong, confident, good-natured young man. He was such an easy-going tolerant person who was genuinely a good person inside and out. He had so much to look forward to in life and so much to offer the world. People are not exaggerating when they talk about what a great person he was. I don’t have any sons, but if I could order one custom-made, Matt would meet and exceed everything that I’d want my son to be. He really made the world a better place just by being here.
When Matt moved up to Chico , he didn’t know anyone except my daughter, Kristi. Kristi had just graduated from Chico so she introduced him to her roommates and he moved into her house when she moved out. I was so proud and happy to see him go away to Chico and continue with his college education. Like all new students he just wanted to meet new people and make new friends. The fraternity offered him a way to do that. Little did any of us know that these new friends would be capable of inflicting so much pain!
As the details of what happened that night came out I found myself deeply disturbed by the thoughts and actions of the defendants. I understand that they did not kill Matt on purpose, however, what happened to Matt down in that dark, cold, disgusting basement prior to his death still sends shivers down my spine. The humiliation and torture they put him through bothers me to the very core of my being. How could they treat anyone they say they liked like that? I don’t understand how anyone could do that to another human being? It is just sick and wrong on so many different levels. There is absolutely no justification for treating him like that! None! These were malicious acts that were despicable, nasty and cruel!
Then after Matt had a seizure they did not take any actions to get him help. The defendants may or may not be “nice young men”, but their lack of action was heartless and unfeeling and ultimately led to Matt’s tragic death. They may not have meant to kill him but they did! I feel they need to have consequences for their actions and lack of action and those consequences need to be severe,
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is hard but when that loss is so senseless it is almost unbearable. This just didn’t have to happen and I feel the defendants have to be held accountable for their actions.
My mother called my godmother on the morning of February 2 nd, 2005, trying to get a hold of me. As soon as I realized what time it was, I knew something was weird. My mom knows that I’m not a morning person and for her to call me at about 8am, although not unusual, telling my godmother that she absolutely HAD to talk to me. I was still very much mentally asleep. I got on the phone with my mom and she was very hysterical sounding. In fact, I had never heard her sound as emotional as she did that day. My cousin Matt died that morning. I actually went back to sleep praying inside that it was a dream. I realized that I was wrong after I woke up and saw that I had voicemails from some family members that I wasn’t even aware had my phone number. I didn’t even know what to think. Family members were calling to see if I was okay, if my mom was okay, how we were taking the news. I was totally at a loss for words. I wasn’t until his funeral that I was actually sure that all of this was real. He was only 21…
My cousin Matt was one of the greatest people I have ever met in my life. He was someone that I admired. He knew where he was going and he had everything he needed to get there. So many times when I was younger, I wish that I could be more like Matt. He always made everyone proud. He was always the nicest person to everyone. He treated everyone he met like an equal. He discriminated against no one, not for creed, color, sex, age, weight, nor hair color. None of that mattered to Matt. He looked at everyone equally. The smallest and weakest kid around would always feel just as important as everyone else if Matt was around, because he made sure that they would.
Matt’s death shocked the family, and raised some questions. What, exactly, had happened? Why was it him? Had he been suffering before he actually died? We shall never truly know the answer to the first question, only those that were there would know everything. For everything that Matt had accomplished, it was all taken away from him because of something so trivial and downright childish as hazing. But, like all other deaths in history, we could not change it. It was an inevitable fact that our family would never see Matt again. Not another Thanksgiving with him, no more Giants games, no more playing catch, no more playing video games with him, no more seeing him just walk around without playing a video, and never again being able to shake his hand.
My family has suffered an immeasurable loss with Matt. My aunt Debbie will never be the same, and my uncle Greg and cousin Travis are still very shaken. I also know that Mike, Matt’s father, is never going to be able to hold his son again and tell him that he loves him. The whole family is hoping that the individuals responsible feel as empty inside as we all do and that they will pay for their crimes justly.
Matt Carrington was one of the greatest people I have, or will have ever, met. His personality was sparkling, and his love for all people was always showing. He was THE responsible one. I don’t think he would have done what he did if he knew the consequences would have been. My cousin, whom I always admired, is gone. And a hole has been left inside a part of all of us. I’m sure anyone of our family would give anything to spend one more day with the guy who made us all feel good. We will not forget you Matt.
Matt’s Cousin – age 20
Matt’s death has had a huge impact on many people, his family and his friends. I remember that horrible day just like yesterday. I woke up that morning not feeling that well so I decided to stay home from school. As my parents were leaving the house they told me that Matt was in an accident, they didn't know what had happened exactly just that it was really bad and my aunt and uncle were on their way up to Chico . I remember thinking that everything would be ok, Matt would be fine and my parents were just over exaggerating whatever kind of accident he was in. About 20 minutes later, my dad called me and told me Matt didn't make it and to be ready to go to Chico as soon as my parents got home and my sister was on her way home from Merced . Immediately I busted into tears. I tried calling my close friends to have someone close to me be there, but they didn't answer their phones because they were at school. So I stayed on my bed crying. As soon as my family got home we left for Chico . I remember it was a quiet ride full of tears. That was one of the first times I saw my dad cry. When we arrived at Matt's house in Chico , we did our best to comfort his family and to help them through everything. I remember taking Travis for a walk to kind of take his mind of his brothers death. I also tried to take all the kids out for a ride to get them out of my aunt and uncles way. It's still so hard to believe that I'll never get to see Matt again. Every once in awhile I'll see something that reminds me of Matt and what happened and I'll start to cry. Matt was a great person, he was loved by many and he didn't deserve this. NOBODY DESERVES THIS! This was a stupid, senseless act resulting in the loss of a loved one that could of easily been avoided. I often ask myself, can I hate the people who did this to him? And I find myself with a yes and a no. Yes because they took Matt from us and no because they were Matt's friends and I'm sure he cared for them deeply, but then again I don't know that for a fact. Am I mad at them? Of course, anyone of those boys could of done something to help Matt. They could of put a stop to these crazy acts or better yet at least they could of called 911 when he first collapsed! But no they wanted to protect themselves and didn't even care about Matt till they realized he wasn't breathing. How selfish can you be? Here you have someone that your hazing just collapse into a seizure, and you don't want to call 911 cause then you'll get in trouble. So you wait until Matt stops breathing to call 911. AGAIN HOW SELFISH CAN YOU BE???? Those boys should of taking care of Matt. They were responsible for him that night and they're responsible for his death! Their actions resulted in the death of a fun, smart, caring, loveable, loved, outgoing, son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, god brother and friend. Matt was still young a had a long life ahead of him to live until those boys murdered him! He never got to finish college, get married, start a family and make a career. Thanks to these boys Matt will never get to experience this stuff but they will and that's not fair. No one should have their life taken from them like that! It should be a natural thing that happens when your older and in a natural way. A fraternity is brotherhood. One for all and all for one. They should stick together side by side and always be there for one another. How could they let this happen to someone that they supposedly care about? And the fact that some of those boys were not enrolled in the school shouldn't matter when it comes down to charging them. If it did they should of not been able to participate in any form of hazing. HAZING IS HAZING whether or not its done for a school reason or just because someone feels like doing it. ITS STILL A CRIME AND THOSE BOYS COMMITTED IT. I know this world can't be perfect and it's not always going to go according to plan, but we need to make it clear that there are consequences for their actions, therefore these boys need to be punished for taking Matt's life. If not were just saying that its ok to treat someone like this and hazing will continue to go on and on behind closed doors and it will continue to ruin peoples lives like it ruined Matt and his family and friends.
Matt was my cousin. We are related through my father and his cousin Greg. All through my life matt has been around. He has played Frisbee, rode bikes, rafted, rocked, fished, and played sports with me in my life.
We would always go up to Yosemite and camp for a while. He would always be there with the rest of the group. I was a little younger than he was so I didn’t get to spend time with him as much as I thought; I usually played with his younger brother Travis. There were times as I got older, that we would play Frisbee at dusk, Uncle Greg would put a glow stick on the bottom to make it easier to see in the dark. This was probably one of the funnest things we did.
As time went on and we all got older the camping started to die down and the trips were further apart we didn’t get to see Matt as much. Every once and awhile we would have a BBQ at Uncle Ken’s house and he would be there with the rest of the family. I remember asking Matt how DVC was; because I knew I would probably end up there. He would tell me it was good and that he liked his film study class the best because the movies were good. No matter what he would always answer my questions and I had so many, but I don’t think it bothered him. He knew I would stop sometime or later.
I remember the last time I saw Matt in person. My Dad and me went to a Metallica concert with uncle Greg and Matt. I was so excited about the concert, plus I hadn’t seen Matt or Uncle Greg in awhile so that was good. At fist it was kind of awkward, but once the music started to play we just rocked out together like a couple of buddies. I’m glad I got to have that experience with him because it was special and it’s the last memory I have of him.
Matt was a good guy; he never said anything bad about anyone else even if they seemed to deserve it. He would always include you if you asked and he always played fair. He loved sports especially basketball, baseball, and football. Matt always had a calm feel to him, but he could also be funny. He would crack some jokes and share in the laughter than Uncle Greg and my Father would kick up out of nowhere.
I wish someday I could live my life the way Matt did with kindness to everyone and a sense that everyone should be treated the same way no matter who they were. I hope to follow in the same footsteps through school, and transfer into a college as he did. Matt is an important role model to me. I will remember and miss him for the rest of my life.
From the first time we met Matthew, as a small child, the thing that most stands out was that smile; that big, broad, bright smile that could light up any room anywhere. It was his mom’s smile. It was contagious. You couldn’t help but feel the warmth when Matt was in the room. It’s no wonder all our kids followed Matt around, looking up to him, wanting to be like him. Matt was special. Matt was Matt. Matt made everyone feel warm, comfortable and at ease, and made us all laugh. Matt had “it”; something that you can’t create, you just have. To know him, was to love him.
Matt was such a beautiful man/son/brother/friend. He was taken from us so quickly, so tragically. The pain, anguish and despair that Matt’s family is going through, to look in his mother’s eyes, to feel the pain, there’s no words to describe it.
The defendants will be able to celebrate birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmas, and Easter with their families. We will spend birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmas, and Easter, mourning the loss of Matthew, FOREVER.
Nothing will bring Matt back to us, but these men must be held accountable for the role they played in his untimely death.
My name is Kathryn Martinsen, and I’m Tom’s wife. I saw Matt grow up from a neat kid to a wonderful young man. I think what impressed me most about Matt, as an independent adult was that he returned so eagerly and so often to participate in family activities. He was not a disaffected youth, alienated from his family. He was a healthy young person, excited about his new college life and happy to share it with his family. I hope his family can finally achieve some peace of mind by it being proven in court that his death was senseless and cruel, robbing all of us of a wonderful person.
Date: October 26, 2005
Victim’s Name: Matthew Carrington
To: Judge Stephen Benson
This letter is to let you know how deeply affected our whole family is with the loss of Matthew Carrington. We knew Matt through our children’s baseball association. He was the big brother to our son’s friend and teammate. Matt was always there not only for his family and brother, but the whole team and league. Every day we think of Matt and miss him dearly!
His smile and infectious personality was such a positive influence for us all. To be concise, our favorite Matt story goes as follows:
Each year every baseball team needs to provide an umpire for the season. One year none of the parents were willing to volunteer. Matt saw our need and “stepped up to the plate.” At first, the league was a bit apprehensive about an 18-year old umpire facing parents, coaches, and players. Over the season, he was amazing at how well he handled everyone. He would just smile and say, “He was out, Coach” and that was the end of it!
I’ll never forget relaying this story at his funeral service before hundreds of mourners, his parents, his brother, and his brother’s baseball team in their team jackets. The tears and sorrow I saw in the audience broke my heart.
What happened to Matt was not an accident. It was a plain and simple act of intentional terror and torture to a young man who just wanted to belong and help his friend belong. He trusted these people to guard his safety and in reflection, there was no regard at all!!
These people are criminals who used the net of “hazing” to murder this young man with a bright future ahead. They deserve the full penalties of murder, not a “slap on the wrist” for hazing.
We are proud and support his family and their efforts to increase awareness and change the laws regarding hazing. Hazing is not funny -- it is a dysfunctional activity that needs to stop before more wonderful young people like Matt and their families, lose life!
Art, Kris, & Valentina Flores
Nic & Josh Nuyten
Your name: Kristi Vahl
Victims name: Matt Carrington
When I think about everything that has happened, it feels so overwhelming. I intentionally push all the feelings aside on a regular basis so that I can move on with my life, but Matt is always in my mind. And then as I sit here and start to think about it all, it hits so hard, the fact that Matt can’t go on with his life. The fact that he was misled and betrayed by his supposed “brothers” makes me feel physically sick to my stomach. It gives me an unsettling feeling that is incredibly hard to feel and to try to deal with.
Matt has always been family to me. Our parents have been best friends for as long as I can remember and Matt and I spent many of our early years side by side. I have so many lighthearted and youthful memories with him and how he always possessed the perfect balance of shyness and comedy, which could usually keep those around him fairly entertained. Matt always had great ideas and a creative and curious mind in which he pushed my limits and challenged me as a kid to keep up.
While we weren’t quite as close throughout our teenage years as we were when we were kids, Matt was always a good friend. He was one of those very rare individuals that you could always feel comfortable around no matter what. We could go months without seeing or speaking and then (normally through some family gathering) would be able to just pick up right from where we left off. We always had that “first child” bond and we always got along so easily, and had a fun time doing it.
As I’ve told many people, I was so excited when I first heard that Matt had made the decision to go to Chico State to finish off his college career. That town had made me feel at home and I was excited for him to experience the same things that I had. I was excited because I knew we would get to re-spark our friendship and that we would be closer for the rest of our lives because of our shared “ Chico experience”. However, the morning I found out that Matt had passed a way was the morning all that shattered. It was the worst morning and the worst feeling that I had ever felt in my entire 23 years. I still hear the echo of my dad shouting over the phone “Oh god!”. That was all I remember and the feelings that followed that morning still continue to haunt me.
The worst part, in my opinion, is not that these boys were doing something wrong, not that they pushed him past his limit, but that they lied to him. They lied to him and betrayed his trust after he had done nothing but kiss their asses all semester. He was nothing less than a nice guy, a great friend, a positive role model, and future leader. These guys denied him. They promised him he would be safe, yet they misused and abused their apparent power within the fraternity and took his life away from everyone that loved him. And while I am certain that all the guys from the frat are incredibly sorry – they still need to pay for their cruelty to Matt.
In a fair world, they should have to endure the same torture and embarrassment that they put Matt through that night; however, since it is not possible for them to go through the same ordeal Matt went through, they need to at least be punished to the extent that the actions of that night will haunt them for the rest of their lives just like it haunts me, Matt’s mom, his family, and his friends.
After thoughtful reflection of the events of February 2, 2005, I feel compelled to write to you concerning the death of Matt Carrington.
This tragedy should never have taken place. As a mother of three boys, two of which are roughly the same age as Matt, I can only imagine the pain that Debbie, Greg, and Travis felt upon hearing of this senseless crime.
Matt’s “brothers” left him in a cold, dirty basement to die. This irresponsible behavior can not be excused as a prank, to do so would be a total miscarriage of justice. The message sent to subsequent “hazers” must be clear. Hazing is criminal.
I firmly believe that only with strict penalties, for those responsible for this catastrophe, can we prevent it’s reoccurrence in the future.
Laura Lee O’Hara
15 Citadel Court
Pleasant Hill, CA 9452
On the morning of February 2, 2005 my family’s life was shattered. I received a phone message from our cousin Carol that there had been a tragedy in the family and to call her back right away. It was obvious something horrible had happened. I called her back and ended up speaking to her husband Marco. Marco told me that Matt had been found dead in his bed in Chico. I couldn’t believe it. I asked Marco for more information but he was so upset he couldn’t speak on the phone any longer. What could have happened? Matt wasn’t one to drink or smoke or do drugs so what could have caused him to die in his bed. All I could think of was his family, our cousins. Then I realized I would have to be the one to tell my husband and children that Matt was gone.
I met Matt when he was in diapers. His Mom and our cousin Greg were friends and when they started dating we spent a lot of time together as friends and as relatives. Matt was a great boy. He was polite and friendly and was a pleasure to be around. We had recently moved to the East Bay and I was looking for day care for my son and Debbie offered to watch him since she was home taking care of Matt. What a relief knowing that Brian would be well taken care of by Debbie and have a “big brother” friend to play with him. Brian spent the first couple years of his life with Matt every day. Imagine having to tell my son that Matt was gone. Again, nothing compared to what Debbie was going through, but traumatic all the same.
We spent a lot of time together over the years on any number of social occasions as well as camping, family reunions and BBQ’s. Matt was always great about hanging around with the younger kids and playing with them. When Greg and Debbie had Travis I think Matt was so thrilled because he had his “Bro”. Even though there is a large age difference between them they were very close. Matt didn’t mind having his little brother tagging along and always acted as his protector. I cannot imagine what Travis will have to go through to learn to deal with his loss. His Big Bro is gone and at a time in his life where growing up is already difficult. I pray for him that he will find the strength to go on.
Of course over the next couple of days we started to learn about the events that led up to Matt’s passing. How can you deal with the senseless nature of what happened? Young men pledging to help each other and be there for each other through thick and thin yet they didn’t have the courage to contact the authorities when one of them was so obviously in trouble. Nothing can bring Matt back, but, the activities that led to his death have got to be stopped. The only way to do this is to have the punishment fit the crime.
I have heard a number of people comment; why didn’t Matt just walk away? Why would he be involved in something so dangerous? Matt was a very bright kid. I don’t think he had a clue that drinking that much water or staying in those conditions for the period of time he was kept there could have a permanent effect on him. However I think the other participants did know. When I heard what had happened in that basement that night the first thought I had was “that was torture”. Where else can you take someone into an environment that they cannot get out of and be allowed to treat them like that?
Unlike an accident, where there is no planning and something just happens causing a young person to lose their life, this can be totally prevented. Totally. Any one of the participants could have called 911 when Matt had his seizure. I am completely convinced had Matt been one of the brothers instead of a pledge he would have had the courage to stand up and make the call. Instead we have lost a person with that type of character because of the lack of character of those participating members of Chi Tau.
I want you and everyone else, especially those directly involved, to understand that this “mistake” or “misjudgment” on the part of the participants has caused extreme pain and loss to all those who knew and loved Matt. Our family will forever be changed because of this loss. Debbie his mother, Greg his father, Mike his father, Travis his brother, Lois his grandmother, Ken his grandfather, Carol his Aunt, Marco his Uncle, Gloria his Aunt, Tracy his Cousin, Troy his Cousin, Richard his Uncle, Glen his Uncle, Sharon his Aunt, Doris his Aunt, Dennis his Uncle, Catherine his Cousin, Gino his Cousin, Nick his Cousin, Angelina his Cousin, Richard his Cousin, Myself, Brian his Cousin and Carter his Cousin. These are just the few relatives on our side of the family. Debbie’s family and all of Matt’s friends will miss him greatly.
I will close with a quick story about the effect that this has had on my immediate family. My son Brian is a Senior in High School and we have been having many discussions about college lately. My younger son, Carter, who is in third grade told Brian that he did not want Brian to go to college. When asked why, Carter told Brian that when you go to college you don’t come back – like Matt.
DATE: October 23, 2005
TO: Superior Court Judge
Butte County Courthouse -
FROM: Miriam T. A. Stange
RE: HAZING DEATH OF MATTHEW CARRINGTON
I write to express my sadness to the Court, as well as the family and friends of Matthew and ask this Court to take right action so that the young men that chose to deliberately take the life of Man will be held accountable for disrespectful acts of violence. As well, I feel sorrow for our community, the world, especially Matt’s Mom. He was an important, viable young man that I too felt pride and was eager to watch his progress in higher education and ultimate accomplishments for his fellow man, Children in this country have become very vulnerable… constantly lose their way in life, in many instances no one to stand up to watch over and guide wild thoughts and intentions that end up in Court. Ultimately these young men went out of their way to willfully create intense, useless grief and pain for parents dedicated to parenting and raising a loving and caring child called Matt. I am sure, Debbie and Greg sent Matt off to college with thoughts of “Our job is close to done...Matt is now in good hands at Chico .” Recently in Lafayette, again we viewed misdirected anger, underlying disrespect for life in general, insanity of “insane Gothic bonding” resulting in a deadly crime committed by a young man with loyalty to a sick cult mentality that perpetuates abusive concepts and philosophy of hate and violence…vented against a random Mother...creating unbearable pain for a another family.
My relationship with Matt was not one-on-one it was my friendship with his parents. Matt was a good son, brother, active in the community and he worked hard to be responsible and get on with his higher education. I knew Matt through his Mom Debbie and Dad Greg and Travis. Yet, Matt never failed to recognize me at the theatre, on the street and especially when I took my 95-year old friend Jean to the movies. Matt went out of his way to acknowledge us, took the time to assist us into the movie and made sure we were seated, OK in the dark. Jean liked Matt and appreciated his help and said, “What a nice, kind, courteous young man... he doesn’t even really know me. ” yet he takes the time to recognize a need for assistance — all done willingly. You’d think he owned the theatre and assured we would come back!
Beyond immediate family bonding, lies an intense need to bond. It is universal for everyone, especially the young i.e., girls bond in sisterhood, boys in brotherhood... it is healthy to belong, nurture and take care of one another. However, HAZING allowed on our college campuses is totally useless… it is detrimental to healthy bonding. Hazing is a pre-meditated, deliberate form of abuse, violent, the intent is to inflict fear, terror...to destroy and take away God given free will we are blessed with at birth. If Matt had survived this brutal hazing...there were no new tools added to his toolbox of life — not one iota of beneficial information on kindness. Nor did the defendants create anything in the name of brotherhood. History proves that nothing is accomplished, on any college campus, when HAZING is fostered, IT MUST BE STOPPED . This form of terror is not acceptable at college (nor in times of war) the intent is to dominate. Matt’s hazing is domestic terrorism. When students choose hate, fear, manipulation, macho acts and dominant behavior...what does it teach???…this brother was already down and fallen to his knees — the defendants chose to ignore “911” . This Court must seriously review the lack of prudent judgment and inability of defendants to exhibit compassion. Not one thing was added to universal goodness...Matt’s life destroyed w/out rhyme or reason. The defendants do have a price to pay for their lack of conscience and decency who willingly set out to belittle and destroy a life w/bully suits blazing against a gentle young man. Courts have to take a STAND AGAINST HAZING, STOP THESE CRIMINAL ACTS ON OUR COLLEGE CAMPUSES -
HAZING IS NOT ABOUT BROTHERHOOD!
I'm sorry this is long in coming, I've been incredibly busy at school. They don't give you much down time. I hope you get this in time to present to the judge. I'm also sorry I can't be there on Friday. Unfortunately I have classes all day long until 5pm , but my thoughts and my prayers will be with all of you. I never stop thinking about you guys and Matt and I hope I'll be able to see you again soon.
You can't really fit who Matt was into paper. You can't sum a life into words without cheapening it at least a little bit. No matter how hard you try or how eloquent the author something will always be missing... because he's not here anymore. Matt will never be here anymore.
I met Matt in the summer before my last year at Chico State and was lucky enough to have him as not only my roommate, but also my friend. He became part of us, an intrinsic and intimate portion of our house’s dynamic. He was the goofy laughter, the corny movies, the eclectic music and the handyman. He was the quiet listener, the helpful friend, the "always there when you need him" guy, and the fun-loving party boy. He came into our lives and changed them, if only a little, for the better.
There has not been a day that goes by where I don’t think about how things could have been different, should have been different. When I ask why as I walk absently through a room that aches with emptiness, like the house. There are shadows where there were not any before just because we are missing a truly and completely sweet, caring, giving and gentle person from all the corners he filled before. I hold on to the memories, use them to brighten the dark and fill the emptiness and silence the echoes I hear in the room now barren from his things. Memories, like candy, are brief but sweet and they gently relieve the sadness, sadness I know Matt would object against and dissipate with his overwhelmingly contagious laughter.
The pain we have felt, the loss we have sustained, the amazing person who is gone from our lives forever- all this does not have to happen again. A statement must be made to show others that we will not stand for such senselessness, such terrible disregard for the preciousness of life. I pray everyday that people will learn by the stories on the news and in the paper, that others will see the very real consequences as demonstrated in the trial and the sentencing. Maybe, just maybe, in this way no one else will have to suffer. And maybe in this way Matt's legacy will live on forever.
October 26, 2005
For you Matt:
For those of us who are parents, all we want is what is best for our kids. We rear them to be the best they can be. It is our job as parents to protect them, teach them right from wrong, and to keep them from danger and harm. Matt was a wonderful person and a very kind boy. He was the product of a very loving environment and much more.
Although I have known Matt since he was a little baby, I remember him most as an instrumental part of the family campouts that we used to have at Lake Mc Swain and Lake Berryessa. He would always be the center of attention with the other kids, usually the younger children, because they looked up to him. My son was a few years younger than Matt, and he was one of those kids. He was very fortunate that he had the opportunity to grow up with Matt. Matt’s biggest fan though was his “Bro” Travis. Matt took such good care of Travis. They were inseparable. It was so cute to hear Travis talking about “Bro” and looking forward to being with him. My heart bleeds for Travis and the empty spot in his heart. I pray that it will someday heal.
When Matt was getting older, Greg and I used to tease him about girls and what a mandatory role they were going to be in his life. Matt would usually start with turning bright red, then cracking a huge smile. His head would dip, and then roll towards you looking up at you with the corner of his eye. Almost inviting more conversation but a little afraid to continue. He would then laugh and shrug off our comments. That was the kind of guy he was. Very friendly and could take a joke.
In February, we received some tragic news. We had received a phone call with the information that Matt had been in a series accident and could have possibly passed away. We scurried for more information, and when we received the full story from Debbie and Greg, my fears came true. From that moment on, the lives of my family were drastically changed. Matt was no longer with us.
I was so devastated to hear that he was in an accident that took his life. What accident? Was it a car wreck, or possibly a fatal injury? As the truth unveiled, I found out that Matt did not need to die. He placed his trust in others that did not come through for him. He was led astray for some silly prank that took his life.
That moment in time will last forever. This incident has forever changed so many people. Matt will never have the opportunity to have and rear his own children. He will not be able to make Greg, Debbie, and Mike proud Grand Parents. A young man that wanted to get a good education to succeed in his own career goals is now removed from the game. He will never be able to sit with Travis and look at Baseball cards, go camping and fishing, and cheer on those 49ers that the whole family loved so much. He was robbed. Robbed for what? An initiation into a club of “Brothers”. Brothers who in the end decided not to get help for their Fraternal Pledge. What could of been more important that helping someone in distress? Especially when you were part of the cause.
We need to look at the whole situation and wonder why and how could this even happen. Placing young men in a basement drinking water and exercising. I firmly believe that Matt thought that no harm would come of him. Primarily because his thoughts may have been that water cannot hurt you. I also believe that his so-called “Brothers” did know the results of their actions. That evening in February did take a “Brother”: a brother in life, a brother to Travis, and a great human being.
I will not pray for imprecation, but I do pray that the parties responsible for this tragedy will wake up everyday with the thought of Matt’s face in their minds and in their hearts. There is no reason that anyone seeking an education in any part of this world should have Fraternal Hazing as an obstacle to deal with. It should not be an option for students to ponder. With the persistence and drive that Matt’s family has against hazing, Matt did not die in vain. This awareness may save another life. Although the way he died was pointless, we need this tragedy to set the stage for all other hazing penalties to follow. By doing so, we can bring this entire episode to a higher sense of awareness. I would love to see Hazing carry a substantial prison sentence with zero tolerance. We need to stop this death ritual and save our kids.
To the Honorable Judge presiding over The Matthew Carrington case.
I never personally met Matt, but the impact that his death has caused on his family and friends has been devastation. The love for a mother to her children is a love that goes deeper than words can say. To lose a child under horrific circumstances is beyond anything I can fathom.
When I first met Greg, Debbie and Travis, they were a jovial, spirited, rambunctious family that you were just immediately drawn too. Greg (with his infectious smile and laugh), Debbie (with her loving and open personality) and Travis (with his shy smile and tremendous love for family, friends and sports). I have watched this family (since Feb. 2nd) lose the sparkle, spontaneity, and spirit that they once had. I see the struggle they endure every day just to get though. They try and put up the “happy” front, but we can see the hurt. Sometimes it is hard to be with them because you just want to take away the pain and you can’t!!!
I hope one day this family will get past the “just getting through” days and can start to heal. There will always be a void in their lives that will NEVER be filled. Matt’s death has had a tremendous ripple effect that is felt by not just a few but hundreds.
Suzanne Damhesel (family friend)
Hello to who ever is reading this. I just wanted to say that Matt will be sorely missed in the Sherman Acre neighborhood where he grew up in Pleasant Hill, and I am one of the people who will be missing him. He grew up in this neighborhood with my two boys and probably another half a dozen boys and they would play football and basketball in my front yard and they truly had grand times. One of the things that made them have so much fun was Matt, his ability to make sure the teams were as fair as they could be, maybe making a change that made the teams even, therefore making the game move smoother and I use to witness this kind of behavior whenever he was around.
All the other kids were good as well, but we are all different and it seemed to me that Matt always wanted to see things right in the world. My boys are both living away from home these days away in college and not many games in my front yard anymore but I still look forward to the times when any of the neighborhood boys come around and Matt will be missed.
My name is Tom Martinsen and I live at 2060 Ahneita Drive, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
To whom it may concern and may it please the court.
My name is Thomas Ruble. I am a Stationary Engineer and have been working at Children's Hospital Oakland for the last four years. My sister Bobbie Vahl and her husband Bill Vahl have best Friends with Matthew Carrington’s mother Debbie Smith and his step father Greg Smith for decades. I first met Greg when my sister and her husband were dating in high school. Greg and Bill were best friends back then.
I was present at Greg and Debbie’s wedding and remember what a handsome young boy Matt was at that time. Over the last twenty or so years it has been my pleasure to be included at gatherings for birthdays, holidays, camping and boating trips and too many barbeques to mention. Matt learned to swim in my back yard and parked his bicycle in my yard while he was at school before he could drive. He grew up with my niece Kristi and in recent years he provided a window Into her life from his unique perspective that I would have otherwise never gotten a glimpse of. It was sometimes frustrating being around Matt. He always seemed to do so well at whatever he was trying and somehow made it look easy. Be it ping pong, fishing, water skiing or Frisbee. It was fun to watch him grow up. I’m 42, never married and I have no kids of my own. What I do have, is many nieces and nephews, about half related by blood. I consider these my kids and Matt was definitely one of them. Although I wasn’t close to Matt I was kept well informed of his progress through my sister. Everyone was very proud of him. When Matt’s life was cut short so was the amazing show I was watching albeit often from afar.
Since then my world has seriously changed. My life is somewhat compartmentalized. I tend to keep my work, home, family and friends largely separated from each other. I am very close to my sister Bobbie and her entire family. Their house is where I go to escape. In the past when Greg and Debbie’s names were mentioned it always brought good times to my mind. Memories of past get togethers and anticipation of future ones. Last weekend when I visited my sister, instead of discussing Halloween activities as we usually do this time of year we were discussing this tragedy and what little we can do to support Greg and Debbie. Instead of watching my nieces assemble costumes their energies are devoted to making “Remembering Matt” signs and buttons. I guess the best way to summarize it is to say that in the past being around the Smith and Vahl families constituted on of my few “happy spaces”. That Happy space now has shrunk, it’s not entirely gone, but it will never be as bright without the light Matt brought to it. There is a cloud of sorrow hanging over the place now and while we may be able to push it aside for awhile it will always remain with us. Matt’s mother Debbie has always been bright and full of laughter and good cheer. Too much of that is gone now and might never return and I for one will miss it.
Your Honor. When considering sentencing of the individuals involved I hope that you try to send a message that there are consequences for one’s actions that sometimes last a lifetime. Not just for the immediate friends and families of the victim but for everyone whose life was touched by him. On behalf of everyone who loved Matt all we can hope for is that some good can come from this tragedy. A stiff message from the court might bring more attention to the dangers of hazing and in doing so perhaps prevent future needless injuries and death. I hope you deliver such a message.
Death is like the lottery, except you are automatically entered to win, and you have no idea when you are going to win. For most, this is not something you want to win, but you have no control over who wins, and when, or that should be the case. When people behave stupidly and make people do dangerous things, it can change the whole game.
When Matt died, I received a call from my Mom saying what had happened, but she didn’t know how it had happened. Then I realized that death was real, and not just for people on the news or your Great-Grandma you never met. No one is going to see Matt in the physical form ever again. His positive attitude, witty remarks and fun personality were good to be around. Amazingly enough Matt got me off my lazy butt and got me playing catch, or Frisbee. He was always nice enough to give up his turn on the Nintendo whenever his cousins came over.
I asked “and for what?” What was he doing when it happened, who was he with, what could have happened? No more Matt at Thanksgiving or Christmas, we knew even when he went away we would also be with him on those two family holidays. No one is the same, everyone is all blue and sad and to see other people sad, it bums me out.
Right after it happened I started raising money for the Matt Carrington Fund, I have a can with over $70 raised from selling tootsie roll pops at my school. It made me feel like I was doing something to keep him alive, but I realized it couldn’t bring him back. I still want to do stuff, I just get sad when I have to think about the reason I was selling that candy.
I don’t like talking about it because the whole tone of the day turns from happy, to sad. I’m going to always miss Matt, but mostly I try not to think it ever happened. I can pretend he is away at school, or grown up and moved away. It’s hard to not think about him because he has done so many good things and I want to hear the stories about things I never knew about. It’s true the good die young….but why? Why not bad people?
I hope that the bad people that did this learn from their mistakes. I hope they have to face their families and their families ask “How? Why?” and they have to see what they did reflected in the eyes of everyone they meet. I hope they tell others, we were dumb, don’t be dumb like we were, it’s just not worth it. I hope they have time to reflect on what they did to Matt, and his parents, and my cousin Travis, and all of Matt’s cousins and Aunts and Uncles, and friends. Matt had a lot of friends, and a lot of people who love him still. I know one day I will have to accept what I know to be true, and have to think about it, and I am not looking forward to that day because it will break my heart.
Matt’s Cousin – 14 years old