FREETOWN, MASS. (WHDH) - A Freetown man accused of beating a woman to death with a hammer appeared in court Wednesday, hours after officials said police found him hiding in a shed and arrested him.
Matthew Lucas, 54, pleaded not guilty in court where prosecutors also laid out allegations in the case.
The Bristol County District Attorney’s office in a prior statement said local police first responded to a scene on Chace Road between Pocasset Lane and Marie’s Way shortly before 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and found 44-year-old Heidi Chace dead in her home.
The DA’s office said authorities identified Lucas as a suspect “after some investigation” and later found him hiding in a shed off nearby Burns Road around 8:40 a.m.
Prosecutors on Wednesday afternoon said Lucas had been in a relationship with Chace and lived with her. Prosecutors said another man who also lived in the house confronted Lucas at the front door after he heard Lucas and Chace fighting.
“He engaged Lucas at that time through the screen door and Lucas exclaimed that he had killed Heidi and that his life was over,” said prosecutor Caleb Weiner.
Prosecutors said Lucas used a hammer in the alleged murder.
“I knew my dad had issues but I didn’t think he would kill somebody,” Lucas’ daughter said outside the courthouse in Fall River.
Lucas has a criminal record spanning 24 pages. Speaking with reporters, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said, based on evidence heard in court Wednesday, this incident “appeared to be fueled by drugs and alcohol.”
“So, just another tragedy,” Quinn said. “But as you’ve heard, the defendant has a significant criminal history.”
Freetown police previously addressed the situation in a statement, saying a suspect was in custody as of 9:40 a.m. and adding “there is no imminent threat to the community.”
“We appreciate the support and understanding of our community,” police said. “The members of the Freetown Police Department remain steadfast in our unwavering commitment to ensuring the safety and security of our residents.”
A Massachusetts State Police spokesperson in a separate statement said personnel responded to support the investigation and search in Freetown, with detectives and K9 units joining members of the state police search team in the response.
The scene on Chace Road was still sealed off as of 12 p.m., with various law enforcement units visible and yellow caution tape in place around the home where Heidi Chace’s body was found.
After Freetown’s first homicide in decades, friends of the victim were in shock, with one person describing Chace as “good people.”
“She was real good people,” the friend said. “She wouldn’t hurt a fly and she helped everybody that she could.”
Lucas was being held without bail as of Wednesday afternoon. He is due back in court next month.
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