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Woman who called police twice asking for protection from alleged stalker found dead in home hours later

DC prosecutors say former inmate Michael Garrett met Sylvia Matthews while she was working at a local jail. He allegedly stalked her for over two decades.

WASHINGTON — For over 20 years, Sylvia Matthews lived in a house on Elmira Street in Southwest DC. It’s where she died last week, prosecutors say, because of a man who kept coming into her life.

In 1998 while working at a local prison, Sylvia Matthews met inmate Michael Garrett, according to court filings. Once Garrett was released that year, he assaulted Matthews. Garrett was sentenced to prison for 24 years.

This March, DC Superior Court Judge Robert Okun released Garrett two years early due to COVID outbreaks at DC Jail under "compassionate release." The US Attorney's Office opposed the release in court.

DC Police arrested Garrett on Oct. 7, charging him with threatening Matthews at her front door. Prosecutors declined the case. No reason was given.

On Oct. 22, police say Garrett beat Matthews outside her home. Prosecutors suspended prosecution. No reason was given.

Credit: courtesy Matthews family
Sylvia Matthews, 71, of Southwest, DC., was found dead at her home on Dec. 3, allegedly killed by a man who went to prison in 1999 for stalking and assaulting her.

On Friday, Dec. 3, around 7:30 that morning, police say that Sylvia Matthews called and said that Michael Garrett was breaking into her car and trying to break into her house. Police came and didn’t spot him. 

Later on, at 8:44 that morning, police say that Sylvia Matthews called again and said she spotted Garrett outside and that she was on the phone with him. Police came and actually took Sylvia’s phone and told Garrett to leave her alone. He hung up, according to police. 

At 11:20 a.m., witnesses say they heard a person matching Garrett’s description shouting at Matthews, trying to break in and heard a fight inside. When police came in minutes later, they say they found her near-lifeless body on the bottom of the basement and police found Garrett, also in that basement where they arrested him.

"Clearly Mr. Garrett had something about Ms. Matthews that he fixated on. When someone does that, it’s really hard to understand the how and the why and what to do about it because it’s irrational," said Liz Odongo is with DC Coalition against Domestic Violence

She adds advice for people who suspect loved ones are victims of stalking: "Most importantly believing the person, understanding and seeing the fear in their voice and their body language and recognizing that they feel alone. DC is fortunate that we have really fabulous resources that help with domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking."

If you or someone you know is in danger because of stalking or domestic violence threats, please click on the link above for help.

Matthews' house still shows the camera systems she had outside, trying to protect her from the threat police say kept coming, and coming, and coming, not stopping until that threat was inside her home.

Detectives are currently working with the United States Attorney's Office to file additional charges related to Matthews's death.  

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