Dayton man gets 50-year sentence for armed robbery

A smiling Matthew Preston Walker is led from the Liberty County Courthouse on Wednesday, May 15, to begin a 50-year sentence for armed robbery. Escorting Walker out of the courthouse is (left) Chad Elmore, bailiff for the 253rd State District Court.

By Vanesa Brashier,

A Dayton man who spent 12 years in prison for child sexual assault before his release in 2015 was sentenced to another 50 years in prison for a 2018 armed robbery.

Matthew Preston Walker, 34, in his video interview with law enforcement confessed to robbing Calhoun’s Country Store, 6650 N. Cleveland St., Dayton. Walker, represented by defense attorney Chad Etheridge, pleaded guilty and asked that a jury assess his punishment.

The trial wrapped up Wednesday, May 15, in the 253rd State District Courtroom with the Honorable Chap Cain presiding. Representing the state were Assistant District Attorneys Tami Pierce and Kevin Barnes.

Walker, Matthew Preston

Besides Walker’s taped confession, the defense had a mountain of evidence to overcome, including video surveillance from the store at the time of the robbery and the testimony of the young store clerk, who said she eventually lost her job because she was crippled with fear.

“They didn’t give me enough time to get over what happened,” she said. “I’m pretty much over it now but going through this again for trial has reopened it.”

She testified that she remembers feeling the knife touch her skin as Walker made the other store clerk, who just so happened to be his wife, open the store safe. Walker claims his wife was unaware at the time that he was the one robbing the store because he was wearing a black pillowcase over his head.

In her testimony, the young store clerk described the moment she realized that she had urinated herself out of fear.

Pierce asked if she had been hurt by Walker when he grabbed her.

“Yes, bad,” she said. “I thought, ‘Is he going to kill me?’ I told myself to not make any sudden moves. I gave him what he wanted so he would let me go.”

After receiving cash from the business, Walker fled the store on foot. He was arrest not long afterward.

When he took the stand in his own defense, Walker was asked about his mental state at the time of the robbery. He claimed he was “not in his right mind” and had second thoughts about committing the robbery as he made the four-mile walk from his home to the store. He also claimed he had gone to the store to get keys to the vehicle he and his wife shared.

“It was one of the scariest nights of my life. I know it was scary for my wife and the young lady who was just in here testifying,” he said.

Pierce, in her questioning of Walker on the stand, zeroed in his claims that he had doubts about robbing the store.

“If you realized halfway there that you had second thoughts, why didn’t you throw the knife and hoodie in the grass and then go up there and get the keys?” she asked.

He replied, “I wasn’t in my right state of mind that night.”

Etheridge asked Walker about the medications he now takes to ensure his good mental health. These include Prozac, Dopamax and Vistaril.

“I am more clear-headed now,” he said.

Etheridge asked if Walker feels he is the same person he was in July 2018, to which he replied, “No.”

Walker shared his difficulty in finding employment due to his status as a felon and sex offender. He had a short-lived job working for a landscaping company but was fired because of his sex offender status. The owner, he said, was concerned about him working at people’s homes.

Walker’s troubles as a youth growing up with a learning disability were shared by his father, Glenn Walker, of Conroe.

“He was given an IQ test and had a score of 71, just one point over what they considered mentally retarded,” his father said.

With divorced parents, Walker spent time living with both parents until his arrest at 18 for the sexual molestation of an 8-year-old female relative. Walker claimed during trial that the crimes were not committed by him but another relative.

He was sentenced to 20 years for the child molestation case and served 12 years. After being paroled, he went to live with his father but eventually moved to Winnie to be closer to his older brothers.

His father said Walker had difficulty finding and holding down jobs, so he helped him financially until it became too much of a burden and had to cut him off. His father asked that the jury try to be lenient as they assessed a fair punishment.

“He did these acts and should be punished,” his father said. “Sexual offenders have no chance in the world and I know why. I would be eyeing my neighbors, too, if they were sex offenders, but I have to look at this from a father’s perspective.”

After deliberating for less than an hour, the jury returned to the courtroom with a recommendation of 50 years in prison. Walker will have to serve at least half of that sentence before being eligible for parole.

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