When Cara and her mother reached the Matthews’ house, there was a flood of police and firemen. Cara’s 911 call had brought half of the city’s police department, two fire trucks, an ambulance, and some of the county sheriff’s department to the Matthews’ house. A city police officer was guarding the front parameter. He stopped them by moving into their path and saying. “You can’t come up here.”
Caroline looked up at the stern looking young man. He was in a dark blue police uniform with his hands resting on his police duty belt. “My daughter is the one who called 911. Jenna Matthews is her best friend. Do you know if she is okay?”
“I don’t have any information about her condition ma’am, but I’m sure Detective Howard is going to want to speak to you,” he said. “Just a moment.” He turned and spoke into the radio on his shoulder telling someone that the 911 caller was at the scene.
A few minutes later a man dressed in black fatigue pants and a black t-shirt with a police badge pinned to the front came out of the house and started walking toward them. The man was tall with a thickly muscled upper body, and a short crew cut dark hair. He held out his hand to Caroline. “Detective Terry Howard, ma’am.”
Caroline accepted his firm handshake and put her arm around Cara. “Caroline Marshall. This is my daughter, Cara. She was with Jenna Matthews when Jenna’s father, Michael Matthews, attacked her.”
“Can you tell me what happened, Cara?” Detective Howard asked, turning his intense gaze directly on Cara.
Cara looked uncertainly at her mother, afraid to tell that she and Jenna were kissing. Her mother nodded toward the detective and gave her a reassuring squeeze. “I’d just got to Jenna’s house, and we were…kissing when her father came in her room.”
Detective Howard looked at Caroline questioningly. “Cara and Jenna are dating. Jenna’s parents don’t know. Jenna was terrified about how her father would react if he found out,” Caroline explained.
“So, he went ballistic when he saw the two of you kissing?” Detective Howard asked Cara.
She nodded. “He grabbed me by the arm and threw me toward the door and then started hitting Jenna. I tried to stop him, but he hit me and knocked me across the room.”
Caroline gently turned Cara’s face so the detective could see the mark that was starting to swell and turn from beet red to reddish purple. Detective Howard’s face hardened as he looked at the petite blonde. “I see.”
“Jenna kept screaming for me to run. After he had hit me, I did run, and I called 911 and talked to the operator until I got home. He was hitting her so hard.” Cara started crying. “Did he kill her?”
“We’re not certain what her condition is,” said Detective Howard. “We can’t find her.”
“What?” Cara and Caroline said at the same time.
“She’s not in the house. Matthews is not here either. There are clear signs of a struggle, but we can’t find them,” Detective Howard explained. Turning to Cara, he asked, “Would you mind coming inside and showing us where everyone was when you left?”
Cara looked to her mother, who nodded. “Sure.”
They followed Detective Howard, who was three paces ahead of them with his long strides. When they caught up with him on the porch, he asked Cara, “Where did you come into the house? Through the front door?”
“No, I always come in the back door,” she said.
“Okay, let’s go around to the back door. I want you to walk me through what happened,” he said.
When they got to the back door, another policeman stopped them and instructed them to put on booties over their shoes.
When they stepped inside the back door, they were in the kitchen. “I came in and ran up the back stairs,” Cara explained.
Detective Howard and Caroline looked up the narrow set of stairs leading to the second floor.
“You can’t go up this way, sir,” a female police officer at the bottom of the stairs said. “There’s blood evidence on the stairs. They found it after you went out front.”
“I told you he killed her,” Cara cried. “He probably took her out and buried her in the woods behind the house.”
Just then there was a commotion outside and several people yelling. “Stay here,” Detective Howard instructed them.
Outside the house, four policemen were trying to stop Michael Matthews from entering the house. Detective Howard stepped into Matthew’s path. “You can’t go in there, Michael.”
“It’s my fucking house, Terry,” Matthews snapped.
“But it’s my crime scene,” Detective Howard said.
“What are you talking about? Who the hell said there’d been a crime here?” Matthews looked like he was surprised by this news.
“A friend of your daughter’s said you were beating Jenna. Where is Jenna?” Detective Howard asked.
“I don’t know,” Matthews answered running his fingers through his short dark blond hair. “She ran away.”
“She ran away?” Detective Howard asked skeptically. He pointed to the scraped hand Matthews’ had just run through his hair. “What happened to your hand?”
Michael Matthews wouldn’t meet Terry Howard’s gaze when he answered. “I punched a tree when I couldn’t find Jenna. She took off running into the woods behind the house.”
Detective Howard pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. “There’s a lot of blood upstairs in your daughter’s bedroom. Are you sure you didn’t punch her?”
“I slapped her,” Michael Matthews confessed angrily. “I walked in on her and her queer girlfriend. They were kissing in my damn house. I lost it. I slapped her, and her nose started bleeding.”
“That’s not what our witness said. She said you were punching Jenna so hard she thought you were going to kill her,” Detective Howard said.
“She’s a lying fucking faggot!” Michael Matthews shouted.
“Okay,” Detective Howard said putting his hands up to stop Matthews. He motioned for one of the officers standing just off the porch to come over. “I want you to go with Sanders and give him your full statement. I’m going to take Miss Marshall’s statement, and we’ll go from there.”
“This is bullshit, Terry, and you know it,” Matthews shouted.
“We’ll send some officers out to look for Jenna, and when we find her, she can tell us if you were punching her or not,” Detective Howard said. “But for now, you’re going to go with Officer Sanders.”
Matthews mumbled to himself as he walked in front of the younger man. Detective Howard motioned for another officer to come up on the porch. When the man was in front of him, he said, “Mr. Matthews says his daughter ran into the woods. Take a few guys, some mag lights, and see if you can find her, or any signs of her.”