Longform

Original Sin

Page 8 of 10

"I said, 'I don't want to hear it.' To me, that was harassment. I really did not want to hear that. That really broke me down.

"After I told him I didn't want to talk to him, he would pull up in the driveway and then call us on his cell phone to say he was there."

Police later asked for a swab from Hancock's mouth so they could test his DNA; he was told that investigators wanted to check the possibility that he was the father of Natalie's baby. But even Ainsworth says he never believed that Natalie and the preacher had been intimately involved.

"I'm not stupid," Hancock says. "You can look at that baby and know it's not mine. She doesn't have blue eyes and light hair. It's totally Spanish. I told my wife they took swabs because there had to be at least two people involved [in the murder].

"I told Ainsworth that. I said, 'You ain't foolin' me, but you can have any of my DNA you want. I got nothing to hide.'"

Enselma says that she, too, found it hard to believe at first that Matthew might have killed his wife. "When they said that about Lisa [that she and Matthew might have been having an affair], I started defending Lisa," Enselma says. "I said they were very close. I didn't want to believe that. But in my heart I sensed it because of the way they acted. I kept saying, 'Enselma, you're grasping at straws.'"

On the morning of Friday, October 23, 1999, police arrested Matthew. He was sitting at the kitchen table in his brother's house when officers came for him. Lisa was standing at the sink.

"I turned around, and the cops were already in the house," Lisa says. "I never even heard them come in. Ainsworth said, 'Mr. Mirabal, you remember how you begged us to find the killer who murdered your wife?' I thought he was going to say they found him. But he said, 'You're under arrest.'

"Matthew went white as a sheet," she says.

The investigators wanted to take Lisa in for questioning right away, but that would have left Matthew's baby, Mikela, and her own daughter alone in the house.

"I asked if [Mikela] was going to be put in a foster home, and they told me it was none of my business," Lisa says. "They took the baby, and later we found out that [the police] met Enselma halfway to New Mexico and gave her the baby."

Along with Matthew's arrest went any hope police might have had that church members would continue to cooperate with the investigation.

"In the beginning, I trusted Troy," Ainsworth says. "At the police station, he took me aside and said, 'I want you to catch the person who did this, whether it be friend or foe or family.'

"I believed that until we arrested Matthew and the whole place clammed up. Everything was okay until we arrested Matthew."

From the pulpit, Troy Hancock told the congregation that Matthew's attorney had asked them not to speak with police. Ainsworth was livid. And as it turned out, Matthew's attorney had not asked for their silence. Hancock said he'd misunderstood what the lawyer said, and he promised Ainsworth he would correct his mistake.

Ainsworth went to the church to hear the retraction firsthand.

"What he told the congregation was, 'When I said Matthew's lawyer said not to talk to the police, I was mistaken. However, Matthew and his family do not want you to talk to the police.'

"Well," Ainsworth says, "same result." They weren't talking.

It's hard to imagine that the congregation could have provided any new information that was as damaging as what police had already turned up. At Matthew's preliminary hearing in December, prosecutors laid out a solid case for his guilt.

Tests of blood found on the gloves from Natalie's car matched her DNA and Matthew's. Investigators said they believed that Matthew had cut himself while decapitating his wife. A small cut on the left glove matched a cut Matthew had on his hand the day after his wife's death.

Matthew had indeed taken out a $250,000 life insurance policy on his wife, investigators testified, but only after his request for a million-dollar policy had been turned down. The $250,000 policy was due to expire a few days after Natalie died. (Matthew's supporters contend that the policy was not in effect at the time of Natalie's death because Matthew hadn't sent in all the required paperwork. He had, however, paid a three-month premium in advance.)

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Karen Bowers