Originally created 08/12/01

Thomson teen faces indictment



A McDuffie County grand jury is expected to consider murder charges this week against the Thomson teen-ager accused of killing his parents nine days ago and fleeing to Florida, where he was injured in a head-on collision that killed another motorist.

Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders said Friday that there is sufficient evidence to present the case against 18-year-old Matt Dean to a grand jury for indictment Tuesday.

Mr. Dean is in the intensive surgical care unit of Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., under round-the-clock guard by Volusia County corrections officers. He was questioned twice last week by Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents.

The teen is charged in McDuffie County with murder in the Aug. 3 shooting deaths of his parents, David Dean, 40, and Terri Dean, 35. Each died after being shot in the head in the kitchen of the family's Twin Pine Road home in the Belle Meade Country Club subdivision.

Mr. Dean also is charged with aggravated assault in the attack on his 14-year-old sister, Bethany, who was stabbed three times with a knife and hit in the head. Bethany escaped and ran to a neighbor's house, where she reported the shooting of her parents.

Police recovered a .22-caliber pistol and a knife in the wrecked car in Florida, McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall said.

Thomson remains in shock over the deaths of the Deans, by all accounts a religious, hard-working couple, and the arrest of their only son, whom many describe as a "good boy."

"It's totally devastated us," said Traci Hyman Gilmer, Mrs. Dean's younger sister. "You seen things like this on TV, but you don't expect it to hit home. We were brought up in a truly Christian family. Terri and David brought their children up in a very Christian home."

Mr. Dean carried his Bible to work every day and spent his lunch hour reading and sharing Scripture with his co-workers, according to Mrs. Gilmer and his supervisors.

Mrs. Gilmer called the killings "the devil's work."

"The best way the devil can break up a family is to affect the children," she said. "We just love Matt to pieces. It's killing us because we have to handle certain things here and can't be with him right now."

Mrs. Gilmer blames the tragedy on illegal drugs and some Thomson parents' refusal to face the drug problem head-on.

"Matt was a good, good boy that had gotten in with some children that did not have good influences in their lives," she said. "There is a very major drug problem in Thomson that a lot of the parents are closing their eyes to.

"Now, I can tell you Terri and David did not close their eyes to it. They did everything they possibly could, but because of his age they were limited in what they could do. But it was not like they didn't try."

Charles Chalker, production manager at the J.M. Huber Corp.'s Wrens plant, described Mr. Dean as a model employee who could have moved up in the company in the 12 years he worked there but chose to continue maintaining the company's rail fleet. The 7 a.m.-to-3 p.m. work schedule allowed him to build houses on his evenings and weekends.

"He would build one and move in it and live there for some period of time, and he would sell it and then build another one," Mr. Chalker said. "He just enjoyed doing that, and Terri worked right along beside him. She just enjoyed doing that kind of thing, too."

The Deans had moved into the house in Belle Meade in June from Meadowood Drive off White Oak Road.

Mr. Chalker said he and Mr. Dean had discussions a year or two ago about trouble he was having with Matt.

"He had talked to me because I've had teen-agers," Mr. Chalker said. "It was all new to him, but for those of us who have raised teen-agers we've been through it before, and he was just looking for guidance. He talked to a lot of people about his kids and what he needed to do. He loved his kids."

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Mr. Chalker declined to go into detail about the discussions.

"David was a very, very religious person," he said. "I'd say if there was a Christian in the world, he was one of them."

Receptionist Susan Lamb said the Deans tried to set a good example for their children.

"He'll be missed," she said.

Mrs. Dean was a substitute teacher at Norris Elementary School in Thomson. Principal Bob Manning described her as a nice, friendly, dependable lady.

Mrs. Dean's mother, Wanda Hyman, owns Millie's Flower & Gift Shop on Gordon Street, where Mrs. Dean often helped out, according to McDuffie County Coroner Donnie Crawford.

Shop employee Janet Spina described Matt Dean as a "good boy who had some problems."

"But what kid doesn't nowadays?" she said.

Mrs. Gilmer said that although people might think the Deans' slayings are an isolated incident, other such tragedies threaten.

"I can assure you that tragedy is going to continue in Thomson with our young people if a lot of the people don't open their eyes," she said.

After the slayings, some of Matt Dean's friends said he began to change about 1 1/2 years ago as he became involved with a different group of teens.

The car Mr. Dean was driving Aug. 4 struck a truck towing a fishing boat in Brevard County, Fla. The truck's driver, Eddie Delawder, was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in the truck was injured and taken to Halifax Medical Center.

No charge had been filed in the Florida fatality as of Friday.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.