Behind the closet door: Crime Watch Daily investigates the Jessica Boynton case
04/27/2017 3:36 pm PDT
UPDATE July 28, 2017:
A Griffin police officer who was investigated in his ex-wife's shooting was charged Friday, July 28, 2017, with making false statements and violating oath after officials say he took her belongings, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
“It was determined that he knowingly provided a false statement relating to the property in question and his possession of (it),” Natale said in a release.l Center.
April 27, 2017:
Crime Watch Daily investigates what really happened to Jessica Boynton, something even Jessica herself wants to know.
For the wife of a Georgia police officer, answering that question is unfortunately turning out not to be so simple.
GRIFFIN, Georgia, April 15, 2016: Police are breathlessly racing to save a life. They hit the top of the stairs knowing somebody's got a gun.
A tactical sweep finds an 8-month-old baby screaming. But they have no idea what's waiting for them behind a locked closet door. Is there a loaded pistol with a hair-trigger on the other side?
Cops now know what was behind that closet door -- but the true mystery is just about to begin.
Griffin, Georgia is the kind of small Southern town where high school sweethearts stay married forever. That's what Jessica and Matthew Boynton thought would happen when they said "I do."
Jessica Boynton, 19, was a stay-at-home mom to 8-month-old Tyler and 2-year-year old Tollin. Matthew Boynton, 21, had just started work as a Griffin police officer. Law enforcement was in his genes. Until recently, Matthew's grandfather, Wendell Beam, reigned as Spalding County sheriff.
Sheila Mathews publishes The Grip, an independent newspaper in Griffin. She says under the helm of Wendell Beam, the sheriff's department had a reputation for protecting its own.
Matthew loved being part of the brotherhood. But long hours on the force took its toll on his marriage.
A woman who lived across from the couple, who works with law enforcement, agreed to a Crime Watch Daily interview if we protect her identity.
"I saw a lot of things change after time. A lot," said the neighbor.
After just six months of marriage, the Boyntons' one-time neighbor says she saw their young love grow toxic.
"I would say broken, distraught, damaged," the neighbor says.
Both Jessica and Matthew reportedly want a divorce.
"She was actually happy, she was thrilled because she finally got that closure that she needed," says the neighbor.
But what started as a mutual, friendly divorce soon turned nasty. Matthew begins calling his brothers in blue, telling them Jessica is physically abusing him -- not a standard way of reporting domestic abuse.
"Most people would not view it as such, I don't believe," said Sheila Mathews.
In turn Jessica begins keeping a so-called "dirty divorce diary," a red notebook she kept carefully hidden in a closet. In it, she logs Matthew Boynton's every move, including his unexplained disappearances with their two boys.
It seems both Matthew and Jessica were secretly stockpiling ammunition for a bitter custody fight. And their "War of the Roses" was about to explode.
Around 9 o'clock on the night of Thursday, April 14, 2016, Matthew Boynton calls a lieutenant on duty and reports Jessica is hitting him again.
"He does report an incident that would be considered domestic violence, that she was poking him in the chest with her finger," said Sheila Mathews.
The neighbor says Jessica came over to her apartment with the kids, clearly upset about the fight. Shortly afterward, Matthew begins texting Jessica about going to Walmart to pick up baby formula.
Security camera captures the family walking in around 10:15 p.m. But another heated argument goes down in the baby food aisle.
Minutes later, at around 10:45 p.m., Jessica storms out. Matthew calls another officer and reports Jessica is refusing to leave with him.
"The Walmart surveillance camera shows that they did exit the building together, and it does show her re-entering and, it shows her leaving again later," said Sheila Mathews.
Video shot outside in the parking lot shows Jessica getting in a black truck with Matthew and the kids, then leaving.
Matthew claims they returned home just after 11 p.m. His proof? A Griffin cop finally arrives to take Matthew's formal domestic violence complaint.
Here's where things get blurry. The report states Matthew left Walmart without Jessica. That's not what the surveillance tape shows.
Around midnight Matthew says he leaves Jessica and the kids to meet fellow Officer Joshua Guthrie for a late-night snack at Waffle House. Before he leaves, Matthew says Jessica makes a bizarre request: She asks him to call an ambulance.
"He said 'What's wrong? Are you having trouble breathing?'" said Sheila Mathews. "He felt that perhaps it was maybe an anxiety attack. He said that she was so distraught that she was doubled over, and he said that she stood, closed the door in his face and then at that point he went ahead and left."
Minutes later, just as Matthew pulls into the Waffle House parking lot, he says he receives a chilling message from Jessica, what he calls a "suicide text," that says:
"I can't do this anymore. Take care of Tollin and Tyler, please tell them I love them every day. I have been suffering for a while now and no one has noticed. Here lately I have not been able to recognize the person I see in the mirror. This is not the first time I have had suicide thoughts. I love you and the boys."
Matthew immediately calls a friend at dispatch.
Boynton: Hey, are you on EMS?
Boynton: Can you please dispatch a unit out to my location, in reference to my wife? She's having suicidal thoughts. She told me to take care of the boys, so I'm trying to hurry up and get back home just to make sure nothing is going to happen to them.
Dispatcher: Any weapons inside the house?
Boynton: Just my service weapon.
Matthew makes it back to the apartment before help arrives and hears baby Tyler crying -- and then heartbreak.
"He stated that he heard two shots fired, 'pop pop,' rapid succession," said Sheila Mathews.
Matthew runs inside to the closet where he keeps his service gun. It's locked. He grabs his police radio from the kitchen counter and runs outside and makes a desperate call.
"I believe I just heard a shot fired coming from my residence. I just came up the stairs, two rounds," Boynton says on the recorded call.
Two rounds? Who shoots themselves twice?
"Be advised I smell gunsmoke, and I can't get an answer to the door," Boynton says on the call.
And would a dad leave his kids inside with a suicidal woman and a loaded gun?
Jessica Boynton's husband says he gets a suicidal text from his estranged wife, so he rushes home, only to hear two gunshots.
Jessica Boynton is found unconscious, her body on top of her husband's service revolver. It appears she's been shot in the head. It appears it was self-inflicted. Or was it?
Griffin Police Officer Matthew Boynton tells dispatch he has no idea what's happened to his wife or their two young sons.
Inside their apartment Matthew Boynton hears crying. He checks the closet where he keeps his police-issued firearm, but the door is locked.
"He didn't know if her intent was to kill their child, kill him and then commit suicide," said Sheila.
The panicked cop grabs his police radio and runs outside to make the frantic call to dispatch.
"He never re-entered the apartment after that point," said Sheila. "He stated that he was too frightened. That is not a reaction that I can relate to."
Moments later Matthew's fellow officers from the Griffin, Georgia Police Department arrive on scene with body-cameras recording. Matthew Boynton is clearly hysterical.
"I hope she didn't shoot my kids," he says to one officer.
Cops find 8-month-old Tyler visibly upset but thankfully uninjured. Two-year-old Tollin is sleeping soundly in his bed as cops try not to wake him in the chaos.
Cops finally reach that locked closet door. They're forced to kick it in.
When they finally shove their way in, tragic heartbreak is lying in front of them. Jessica Boynton's head is perfectly positioned on a blood-soaked pillow. Then, a moment of hope from the 19-year-old mother: She's still breathing. Jessica's alive, but barely.
When the officers pull Jessica's body out of the closet, they find Matthew's gun right underneath her, a .40-caliber Glock. Her blond hair is now red from what cops assume is a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A paramedic frantically fights to save Jessica's life. A body-cam captures her inconsolable baby boy in the arms of an officer.
Jessica's hair is so matted with blood no one can find the actual gunshot wound to stop the bleeding. Emergency-responders finally arrive and carry Jessica to a waiting ambulance. Matthew's fellow officers try to shield him from the sight of his gravely injured wife.
Jessica and Matthew's neighbor, who wishes to remain anonymous for her own safety, sees the lights from her apartment and runs outside.
"I said 'It's Jessica isn't it?' And they said yes. I said 'Is she still alive?' And they said yes," the neighbor said.
The neighbor claims she had been with Jessica just hours beforehand, and says her friend would never have tried to take her own life.
"I know for a fact that Jessica was not suicidal," said the neighbor.
But Griffin Police are treating this as a suicide attempt. They call in Spalding County Sheriff Wendell Beam, who happens to be Matthew's grandfather, along with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
They discover two shell casings and two bullet holes in the closet wall.
"It's believed that Jessica entered the closet, closed the door, locked it, turned with her back to the door facing the back wall of the closet, that she held the gun to her head, pulled the trigger," said Sheila.
That bullet ends up toward the top left of the closet. The second bullet hole is more of a mystery.
"The second shot that was fired, it entered the back wall of the closet approximately a foot, no more than a foot off the ground. It entered at an upward leftward trajectory angle," said Sheila Mathews. "According to my interview with Griffin police chief, that second shot had to have been fired while the gun was either on the floor or almost on the floor very close to that wall."
Inside the closet they also discover Jessica's red "divorce diary." She had always kept it hidden, but now, there it is for everyone to see. The odd thing is a few pages have been ripped out.
But it's what those body cameras don't record that's raising eyebrows. There's little if any visible blood spatter inside the closet.
Cops do find one bullet. But where's the second round? Still lodged in Jessica's skull?
Just minutes after Jessica is airlifted to an Atlanta trauma center, Sheriff Beam asks deputies to deliver the devastating news to Jessica's family that she's dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
But Jessica is still very much alive.
The doctor in the trauma unit says Jessica Boynton wasn't even shot.
The shocking discovery comes when he shaves her head looking for bullet holes. What he finds turns this case of a suicide upside down.
"He believes that her injuries were consistent with blunt-force trauma," said Sheila Mathews. "Her hands appeared to be pristine, but also he noted that she had no gunpowder burns."
Cops do find Jessica's DNA on the gun. Strangely, they never test her hands for gunshot residue.
So if there is no gunshot wound, what really happened inside that closet?
Unfortunately, the only person who may be able to answer that question is Jessica, and she was in a coma.
"I know what happened," said the unidentified neighbor. "He tried to kill her."
Her neighbor, who asked us to protect her identity, says she knows the motive: Jessica had uncovered Matthew's dark secret. She tells the Georgia Bureau of Investigation the Matthew Boynton is cheating on Jessica with another woman.
"She suspected Matthew was cheating on her and so she dug for information, and we found it," the neighbor said.
The neighbor says Jessica started documenting all the sordid details of the affair in her secret red "divorce diary." It was sitting out in the open, caught on police body-camera when cops kicked in the closet door.
"She logged on to his Facebook, we got his Facebook messages and printed them out and started reading the messages between him and the lady from the dispatch," said the unidentified neighbor.
Matthew's mistress worked as a dispatch officer, reporting to Sheriff Wendell Beam, who just happens to be Matthew Boynton's grandfather.
"Very explicit conversation," said the neighbor.
How did Jessica react when she saw those messages?
"Happy," said the neighbor. "She's like, 'This is exactly what I need to get my divorce from him.'"
But what about that 911 call Matthew made just minutes before the shooting, claiming he got a text from Jessica saying she was going to kill herself? Their neighbor says Jessica wasn't suicidal at all. In fact she claims Jessica was blissfully stockpiling ammunition to get full custody of their two little boys.
The neighbor believes Matthew Boynton discovered the divorce diary and simply snapped.
"I think what happened after they come home from Walmart, Jessica and Matthew got into an argument. She's like 'I got you where I want you and you're gonna go down for this,' and he pulls his gun out and she runs into the closet to hide, and instead of shooting her, he hits her on the head with a baton," said the neighbor.
Who does the neighbor think sent that text message to Matthew's phone from Jessica's?
"Matthew. To stage a suicide," said the neighbor.
Officer Matthew Boynton has never been charged with anything in connection with this case, but the Georgia Bureau of Investigation did question him.
Matthew admits to having an affair. Then he drops a shocker, claiming he wasn't the only one cheating,
"She finally told me, she said 'Yeah, I had an affair,'" Matthew Boynton says in the GBI interview. "And I talked to the guy and was like, 'Look man, you know, can you just be honest with me? Did you all have sex?' And he said 'Yeah, we did.'"
Despite their problems, Matthew tells investigators he still loved Jessica and the boys, and he offers an explanation for why he didn't run in the apartment that terrible night to save them.
"I didn't know if I was dealing with a possible active scenario where she still had the gun, and she had shot Tyler, and then I could have been the next target," Matthew says in the interview.
Then he hits investigators with a jaw-dropper.
"Recently she did confirm that the second baby is not mine," Matthew tells the GBI investigator.
That's right. Tyler, the 8-month-old baby, is the result of a relationship Jessica had with a mechanic while she and Matthew were temporarily separated. Ironically Jessica first met that man while she was out scouting for a wedding venue to marry Matthew.
"I was scared to death that she would shoot me and then kill herself," Matthew tells investigators.
Despite what many think is a smoking gun, the GBI agent asking questions proceeds as if Jessica shot herself.
"There was no testing done on his clothing," said Sheila Mathews.
Matthew's hands were not tested for gunpowder either.
And with that Matthew Boyton's questioning was over.
The only person who truly knows what happened behind that closet door was jessica -- and she's now out of her coma.
Jessica Boynton, once declared dead, is alive and talking.
"I have occasional headaches, but other than that everything's good," Jessica Boynton said.
What's the last thing she remembers?
"Being in the closet," said Jessica. "Next thing I remember was I wake up and I'm in a hospital."
And now Jessica is telling a completely different story.
Did she try to kill herself or shoot herself in the head?
"No," said Jessica Boynton.
And the doctor in the emergency room didn't find any bullet holes.
"My wound was on the top of my head. There's no way I could have shot myself in the top of the head and not kill myself. I mean that just doesn't happen," said Jessica.
The doctor said the second most striking observation while assessing Jessica was that neither of her hands had any evidence of gunpowder. Does Jessica know whether the cops ever swabbed her hands?
"They did not. They did not swab me or Matthew, nor did they take his clothes," said Jessica.
The doctor believes Jessica's injuries may have been caused by blunt-force trauma. Now she lives in terror every day because she can't remember who attacked her.
"I don't really know what happened in the closet, I just know that I did not try to kill myself," said Jessica Boynton. "I think I was hit over the head with something."
Who does she think hit her over the head?
"Matthew," said Jessica. "I think it was in the heat of the moment, he was angry with me. I think it just kind of happened. I don't think he meant to do it, or at least that's what I like to think."
Did investigators look for a blunt object?
"No they did not because they assumed I was shot, because that's what Matthew said," Jessica said.
How does Jessica explain the "suicide text" sent from her phone less than 10 minutes before her husband Matthew called 911 in a panic?
"It doesn't sound like anything I would say," said Jessica Boynton.
She also says she couldn't have written the text because it said "I love you."
"I would not have said that to him," said Jessica.
If she didn't write that text, who did?
"I'm guessing Matthew," said Jessica. "To help cover his tracks."
Jessica's theory of what happened centers around her "dirty divorce diary." She thinks he found it before the incident. She also thinks Matthew read her diary and realized she was documenting his extramarital affair and secretly plotting to get full custody of their little boys. She says there were pages missing.
"I don't want to put all the blame on him but he's the only person that could have done it," said Jessica Boynton.
Jessica is also slinging allegations at Matthew's brothers in blue at the Griffin Police Department, and Matthew's grandfather Sheriff Wendell Beam.
"If he would have just been a regular person he would have been taken to jail," said Jessica.
Does she believe that this was just sloppy work or does she believe that this is a cover-up?
"I believe it's both, it's sloppy and a cover-up," said Jessica.
What did Matthew do that he needed covering up?
"He almost killed me," Jessica said.
Despite Jessica Boynton's fiery allegations, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation closed her case, clearing Matthew to return to work.
But here's the thing that has everyone shaking their heads: In the bureau's final report, dated months after Jessica was released from the hospital, they still declare Jessica dead.
No one may have ever done anything to question this case again if not for Will Sanders. He's not a cop or even a private investigator. He's a truck driver.
When he's not driving a truck, Sanders studies police records looking for things investigators missed -- or possibly covered up.
"If they put out a report I spend a lot of time fact-checking it and making sure what they're telling is the truth," said Sanders.
And Sanders was beyond fascinated by this one. In fact he's collected almost every piece of evidence from the case.
"When the GBI concluded their case they gave it back to Jessica, and I got it from Jessica," Sanders said. "The only thing that I can tell you is that Matthew Boynton's account of events are not correct."
Sanders says there are a few things that really stand out:
The red sweatshirt Matthew offered police to test for gunshot residue. The one seen in the police body-cam is not the same gray sweatshirt he was wearing at Walmart earlier that night.
"Nobody ever asked him about why he changed clothes," said Sanders.
After getting Matthew's phone records, Sanders discovers during that same time Matthew was making calls to 911, he was texting his mistress.
"He told 911 that he was so worried and he was trying to get back to the house as fast as possible. But he's also texting her before he called 911," said Sanders.
Will Sanders also has questions about a crime scene photo showing Matthew's cellphone. The officer says he left it in the kitchen and ran outside. Sanders wants to know how Matthew was texting his mistress from this very phone if he never reentered the apartment.
"The stuff that he was texting her was, you know, 'LOL's," said Sanders.
What Sanders found most alarming was the time frame Matthew Boynton says he heard those two gunshots.
"The neighbors [said] somewhere around 11 p.m., and he is the only one who hears the gunshots at 1 a.m., and he calls it in," said Sanders.
Since both sides have their theories of what happened that night, Crime Watch Daily brought in an independent investigator to give us his unbiased opinion.
Jessica believes her suicide attempt was staged.
"Really somebody just needs to look at it, somebody of great knowledge of things like this, and then let them tell me what they think," said Jessica Boynton.
So Crime Watch Daily went out and got one of the best in the business.
"I was with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for 33 years," said Tim Miley. "During that time I investigated hundreds of cases with gunshots and many, many suicides."
We asked retired homicide detective Tim Miley to review Jessica's entire case file and every crime scene photo.
"Here's where her head was laying. I don't see anything that looks like high-velocity blood splatter or mist," said Miley.
"Nobody would shoot themselves like this," said retired homicide detective Tim Miley. "It's just inconvenient."
"There are two theories in this case, the first is that she shot herself and on the way to the ground she accidentally fired the gun a second time. The gun then landed underneath," said Tim Miley. "Another reasonable explanation is that there was a fight over the gun and during the course of that she was injured, Matthew thought she was dead and put the gun underneath."
After studying Jessica Boynton's case, Miley sides with Jessica.
"In looking at this, this does not have the appearance of a suicide to me. It appears to be either an assault or maybe something accidental," said Miley.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation cleared Matthew of any involvement with Jessica Boynton's case.
But Jessica still can't remember what happened that terrible night in the closet, and she's says there is only one person with the answers.
"I would want to know how he did it and how does he live with himself every day knowing that he did something like this," said Jessica.
Crime Watch Daily reached out to Officer Matthew Boynton and got no response.
But as luck would have it, suddenly he's right across the street on police business. Officer Boynton was responding to an accident, and when he returned to his cruiser, we were waiting, armed with questions.
Unfortunately Matthew Boynton didn't have anything to say. But someone else did.
Just days after running into Officer Boynton, I received a threatening email that reads in part:
"Are You An Intelligent Enough Investigative Journalist To Know When You Are Being Conned or Do You Have To Be Spoon Fed? The devil is in the details. ... Show the world how smart you are and uncover what the Wannabe investigative reporters couldn't figure out. If not, get on a plane and go HOME."
Crime Watch Daily's security team tracked the email address, only to find it was from an anonymous server.
Clearly we touched a nerve in Griffin, but we're not about to be scared off.
And neither is Will Sanders, the truck driver spearheading the drive to get justice for Jessica.
Jessica has given Will every piece of evidence in her case, including that divorce diary. He's hoping if the case gets reopened, any possible clues will be preserved
But many believe Jessica holds the only key as to what really happened inside that closet.
"In my opinion the only way there will be a resolution to this case is if Jessica remembers what happened in that closet," said retired homicide detective Tim Miley.