Matthew McGowan (center) enters the courtroom to hear the jury‘s verdict in his murder trial on Monday at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)

Matthew McGowan (center) enters the courtroom to hear the jury‘s verdict in his murder trial on Monday at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)

Guilty: Everett man tied up homeless man, left him to die

A jury deliberated less than a day before convicting Matthew McGowan of murdering Michael Boone.

EVERETT — A jury found an Everett man guilty Monday of beating homeless man Michael Boone, binding his wrists to a secluded tree, and leaving him to die alone in freezing winter weather.

Near the end of a two-week trial, Matthew McGowan testified he had nothing to do with killing Boone, 46, who was found dead from exposure Jan. 4. The killer tied his wrists to a tree at a wooded homeless camp off 41st Street.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated less than a day before returning a verdict of guilty of first-degree murder at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Snohomish County Superior Court.

According to trial testimony, Boone had asked his acquaintance Darron Weidman if he could help him to buy sex from a woman, Donita Burkley, late on New Year’s Eve. Charging papers say Weidman told him he could make that happen, but he and Burkley did not intend to follow through. The pair planned to rip off Boone, who was all of 5-foot-2 and 118 pounds.

McGowan, 27, joined the plot because two robbers could intimidate better than one, Weidman testified at the trial. Both men stood a foot taller than Boone. But when the Everett man checked an account at an ATM, the group saw he only had $6, court papers say. The group ended up taking Boone for what he had: a handful of small bills, a phone and the very clothes off his back.

Weidman split off from the group, supposedly to grab a knife. Instead he got high and stayed at his camp, he told police over a series of interviews.

Meanwhile, Burkley and McGowan walked south on Broadway with Boone to the strip of woods behind the Evergreen Cemetery, because he’d offered her $20 for drugs, according to what she later reported to Everett detectives. Court papers say McGowan hit Boone across the face with a wooden stick and put him in a chokehold. Then he tied him to the tree with Boone’s own belt. He left him there as the temperature fell into the 30s. Days later, a passerby found Boone dead in that same spot, naked except a dirty white T-shirt, a pair of red underwear and one sock.

Within weeks of being charged with a crime, Weidman took a plea agreement in April. He admitted to first-degree robbery and he agreed to testify against both of the other suspects. McGowan’s defense argued Weidman could not be trusted, in part because he swiftly agreed to turn on the others to save himself from a murder conviction, and in part because he declined to reveal some details in early police interviews. On the witness stand, Weidman conceded a lighter prison sentence was half of the reason he chose to testify. The other half of his decision, he said, was because he wanted to tell the truth.

“Somebody’s life was taken, and it was not OK,” Weidman said on the stand. “It was the wrong thing to have happened. So I owned up to everything.”

On the witness stand, McGowan testified he’d smoked methamphetamine four times on the night in question, so his memories weren’t especially clear. One thing he did recall, he said, was departing from the group because he felt out of place.

A food stamp card belonging to Boone was found in McGowan’s bedroom. Police found a jacket worn by the defendant — as seen on several security cameras — outside of his home, on the front porch. A state crime lab discovered Boone’s DNA on it.

On Monday the jury found McGowan committed a robbery as part of the murder. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 12.

Burkley, 34, is awaiting trial on the same charges. At the time of her arrest, she admitted to police she rifled through Boone’s jacket pockets while he was tied up, according to the charges against her. She recalled McGowan ordered Boone to strip, and when he refused, McGowan tore the warm clothes off of him.

“Burkley said that Boone was yelling for help,” the charges say, “so she told him to be quiet so that it would end sooner.”

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton @heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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