CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids woman said she just happened to be awake when she saw a man entering her backyard on her surveillance camera April 28.
Shelly Matthess then attempted to find him but had no idea she was chasing the man who would be accused of killing a mother of three just hours later.
“I panicked and ran to the backdoor. ... I didn’t finish watching the tape,” Matthess, who lives at 2101 Haven Court SW, told The Gazette during a phone interview Sunday. “My husband also came after me. I went out the back door first. I didn’t see the man. He was already gone.”
Matthess said she and her husband checked the garage and shed, which are inside a fenced-in backyard. After finding nothing, they went back inside and finished watching the video.
The video shows the man, later identified by police as Timothy Evans, entering her latched gate at 4:28 a.m. and walking up to her backdoor.
Evans, 38, is accused of killing Gina Frederiksen later that morning.
“You can see him going to the door and you hear him checking the door handle, and then he tries to quietly shut the storm door,” Matthess said. “He walks closer by the camera and heads back to the fence but he kind of stops, like he’s confused, and says something,” Matthess said.
She said he seemed to realize he didn’t come from that side of the yard. He then walked to the other side to the gate.
Matthess went looking for the man in her car but never saw him. At the time, she wasn’t thinking he might be violent. She thought he was “just a thief,” she said.
“I was scared when I found out” about the homicide, Matthess said. “He could have been in my garage when I went out checking. That’s why I put a special lock on the backdoor because my kids are always going in and out and don’t always lock it. The door handle will automatically lock when it shuts.”
Matthess said the suspect never went into her detached garage or shed.
Police said Frederiksen was killed after Evans broke into her detached garage at 7:34 a.m. April 28. Frederiksen, 38, lived at 1814 I St. SW — less than a mile from Matthess.
Frederiksen’s neighbors called 911 after hearing an explosion. When police arrived, officer Kevin Lukan pulled an unresponsive Frederiksen from the garage. She died a short time later at a hospital.
Fredriksen was found in the doorway of the burning garage with “traumatic injuries to her head and other parts of her body,” according to the criminal complaint.
Earlier the morning of the homicide, when Matthess got back from driving around the neighborhood, she posted her attempted burglary story and a still photo of the man to Nextdoor, a social network that lets people connect with neighbors. The site doesn’t accept videos, she said.
Later, after someone commented on her post that there had been a suspicious death nearby, she uploaded the video to MobilePatrol, an app that works with law enforcement and informs users about safety information in their community. Police later contacted her about the video.
Matthess said police came to her house and retrieved fingerprints from her gate and back door. The suspect in the video wasn’t wearing gloves, she added.
One of the investigators she talked with confirmed that Evans was the man who was in her backyard that day, and he initially was arrested on a charge stemming from the attempted burglary that she reported, Matthess said.
Police told The Gazette last week about three burglaries of detached garages, which occurred Saturday night into early Sunday, that were being investigated for any connection to the homicide.
On Thursday, police noted there were several burglaries in the area around the time Frederiksen was killed and asked anyone with surveillance photographs or videos of “suspicious activity” to contact them.
Matthess said she installed her motion detector and camera about 14 months ago after several car break-ins in the neighborhood. She said the suspects usually go around checking car doors and get into the cars that are unlocked. Within two weeks of her camera being up, there were some cars broken into, Matthess said.
She admitted she always has been paranoid about thefts or safety and always carries a knife on her. Matthess said that since learning of Frederiksen’s death, she has thought about what could have happened to her.
“What’s scary is it happened in day time,” Matthess said. “It’s horrible what happened.”
Evans, of Cedar Rapids, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and first-degree arson.
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