ST. ALBANS — Occasionally leaning on one another for support, the family of fatal shooting victim Anna Alger, 31, of Highgate, listened to the recorded confession of the man accused of shooting her, Matthew Webster, 31, of Swanton, Thursday morning in Franklin County Superior Court.
The recording, along with two others, was played as part of a hearing on a defense motion to exclude the police interview from evidence. Webster is charged with second-degree murder.
In addition to the shooting, Webster described his movements in the hour prior, his relationships with his wife and former girlfriend, his longtime gun ownership, and his habit of snorting the Oxycodone he had been prescribed for chronic pain.
Det. Sgt. Ben Couture of the St. Albans Police Dept. (SAPD) told the court he began the recording shortly before entering the holding cell where Webster was being kept following the Sept. 25, 2013 shooting.
As the tape begins, Webster is clearly distraught and crying. When Couture first approaches him, Webster says, “I was going to kill myself and then she got out. Are you a doctor?”
Couture answers that he is a detective and they are going to go to another room where they can talk.
“I didn’t mean it,” Webster says. “I swear to God I won’t give you any trouble. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
And again, “My counselor quit. My counselor quit. I’m so sorry.”
Once they are in the interview room, Couture removes the cuffs from Webster, and explains that he has to read him his rights.
“I’m so stupid,” Webster says. “I’ll tell you everything.”
Couture reads the rights and asks after each one whether Webster understands. He replies, “Yes, sir” each time.
Couture then asks, “Do you want to talk to me?”
Webster answers, “Yes, sir, I want to talk to you.” However, he does add, “I’m afraid … I don’t know the laws too well.”
Couture then tells him that for them to talk, Webster must sign the waiver.
“I want to do the right thing … Would they be able to come right now, a lawyer?” Webster asks.
Couture replies that he can’t answer that.
“I want to talk to you because it’s the right thing to do,” Webster says, after Couture assures him he can stop the interview at any time. He later adds, “I haven’t had my medication today. I know I can compose myself a little.”
Early in the interview, Webster breaks down as Couture asks him to describe the events leading up to the shooting.
Webster describes being at home, reading e-mail. He receives a message from his ex-girlfriend, with whom he had an affair starting in January 2013, and ending about two and a half months before the shooting.
He diverts to describing the car he had finished repairing the week before. “We finally finished the car Friday. I was going to start work … Everything was starting to go the right way,” he says.
After Webster describes the smartphone application, which allowed him to communicate with his ex-girlfriend without his wife knowing, Couture asks where the phone is, prompting Webster to tears again. He lost track of the phone after the shooting when, he said, “I was collapsing on the ground with my wife.”
“I’m so frigging scared,” says Webster.
“I was lazy,” Webster says returning to his story. “I was supposed to be cleaning the house. I wish I was still cleaning the house.”
Resuming his narrative of events, Webster says, his former girlfriend called him in tears, apparently upset that her children’s father was going to leave her and take their children. She asked to see Webster.
After initially refusing to meet her, Webster agreed. However, he called his wife at work to tell he was going to see his ex-girlfriend.
In the interview, Couture asks for details including the route Webster took to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment on Lower Welden Street in St. Albans City.
“I got a really bad memory,” Webster says. “I’m trying to get this the best that I can for you.”
Because his wife was coming to his ex-girlfriend’s, Webster says they left her apartment and parked behind the VFW hall on Lake Street. While parked, Webster was also talking with his wife on the phone. He had his ex-girlfriend tell his wife their affair was over.
Describing his relationship woes, Webster says, “I’m a pushover. I’m a nice guy… I never meant to hurt anybody in my life.”
“Even though it’s done, I wanted to protect (his ex-girlfriend),” Webster says. “I didn’t want her to lose her children. She loves them. She’s got one tattooed on each foot.”
Finally, Webster describes taking the ex-girlfriend back to her apartment, interrupting that story to say, “I haven’t taken any of my medication. I don’t feel so hot.”
Couture says that maybe he can get the medications from Webster’s car later and offers him water.
His wife, Danielle, was parked near his ex-girlfriend’s apartment. Webster told his wife to follow him. They then went to the Switchyard shopping plaza on Lake Street where he says he bought cigarettes and soda. They spoke. “She was angry,” Webster says.
He drove away from the Switchyard with Danielle following him. “I was on Main Street in front of that new restaurant. Twiggs, I think it is,” Webster says.
He had a 9-millimeter handgun in a holster. “I’ve carried a gun since I was old enough to carry a gun,”Webster says.
Webster diverts from the gun to describe his medications, saying he takes two pain medications for pancreatitis. “That stuff has rotted my brain even more.”
Returning to events in the car, Webster says, “I took my 9-millimeter off safety and I chambered a round.”
He says he pressed the gun to his neck.
“I was ready to die because this argument has been so ongoing for almost a year,” Webster says, referring to his marital woes, adding he has been to the point of suicide before.
“I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it… I had it squeezed. I could feel it coming back,” Webster says of the hammer on the gun. “I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to die.”
While all of this was occurring, Webster ran a red light at the corner of Main and Lower Newton streets.
Webster says he pulled over and a couple pulled up behind him. “They pulled over. I don’t even want to talk about this part. I was so scared,” he says.
“I wasn’t safe to drive. I pulled over as soon as I could because I wasn’t safe to drive,” Webster adds.
In the courtroom, listening to the recording, Webster began rocking back and forth slightly in his chair.
“I don’t know why I got out. I got out… First the guy started to get out. He was in the passenger seat,” says Webster. “The driver’s side opens up. I had two people coming at me.”
He was still holding his handgun. “I tried to put it back in the holster and it wouldn’t go… I didn’t think. I didn’t think.”
In the recording, Webster again dissolves into tears.
“The gentleman that was in the passenger side got back in the car. I think he saw the gun,” Webster says.
“I said, ‘Can you please get back in your car.’ He went back in the car and she charged further,” says Webster. “Like a six-point buck come up over the hill… I pulled up and shot.
“She kept coming. I emptied the clip and I didn’t even know it.”
“I saw her fall and at that point it was like, ‘My God, what did I do,” Webster says.
The friend riding in the car with Alger started to get out of the car, Webster says, “I pointed it at him.”
Webster also says he put a fresh clip in the gun and put it to his temple. “I squeezed the trigger and it went ‘click.'”
His account of the events following is difficult to follow. His wife appears and takes the gun, he thinks. Webster says his memory is so jumbled “there’s no way to even replay it.”
“I’m a terrible (expletive deleted) shot,” Webster says at one point.
“I remember seeing the blood on the pavement,” he says. “I knew I had done wrong, so I said, ‘Somebody’s got to call the cops.'”
He also describes cradling both guns, because he didn’t want anyone to use them.
“My wife caught up to me. She said, ‘You just shot somebody,'” Webster says. “I collapsed in her arms. I said, ‘Somebody’s got to call the cops.'”
The 9-millimeter was on the ground at this point, near Webster and his wife.
“There was another man there. I think he was going for my gun, my father’s gun that was on the ground,” says Webster. Afraid the man would shoot his wife, Webster says he picked up the gun and told everybody to stay back.
When uniformed officers arrived, Webster says he threw the gun out of reach and lay on the ground. “I wanted to be taken into custody.”
Couture then guides the interview into a discussion of the guns Webster had with him at the time of the shooting.
Webster says he used to only carry a 380-magnum handgun, but started carrying the 9-millimeter, too, after a man who went to prison for stabbing a woman was released from prison and moved in next to him.
He always carries an extra clip with the 9-millimeter because it only has 10 rounds. “I’m a terrible shot,” Webster says.
“Guns have always kind of been my life,” says Webster, who used to work for Georgia gun maker Century Arms.
Couture then asks about Webster’s medications. “I was a prescribed addict,” says Webster. He takes both Oxycodone and Methadone.
“I’m all out of my Oxycodone because I had a bad month… pain wise,” Webster says. Webster says he had begun snorting the Oxycodone. “It stopped my pain and it stopped my depression.”
“If I was still on Oxycodone, I don’t think my temper would have been,” Webster starts, finishing with, “today, I was at my lowest depression stage.”
Asked for permission to access his medical records, Webster supplies the name of his primary physician and two specialists.
When Couture asks for permission to access his phone, Webster agrees that going through his phone “would probably be the right thing to do.”
Webster asks after Alger’s condition, but Couture doesn’t know it. “I want to know and I don’t want to know,” says Webster.
Alger, who was shot six times, died at the Northwestern Medical Center. She and Webster both attended Missisquoi Valley Union high school.
By the end of the interview, Webster is calmer and more coherent. He swears to police that the information he has provided is true and accurate to the best of his knowledge.
The defense is attempting to exclude the confession from the trial, arguing that when Webster asked about a lawyer, he should have been placed into contact with one.
They also argue that when Webster said, “I don’t even want to talk about this part,” before describing the shooting, that is tantamount to a request to terminate the interview.
In their response, attorneys for the state note that immediately after that statement, Webster continues to speak about the shooting without any prompting from Couture.
The state also maintains that a preponderance of the evidence shows Webster knowingly and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights, pointing to the signed waiver as well as the recording in which Webster can be clearly heard answering “yes, sir,” when asked if he understood each right.
In addition, Webster states multiple times that he wants to speak with police.
In an apparent effort to show Webster’s state of mind at the time of the confession, the defense showed the court 12 minutes of video footage of Webster crying in the holding cell and occasionally making exclamations, and footage from the vehicle in which Webster was transported from the scene to SAPD headquarters. He can be heard sobbing in the car, as well.
The defense has filed a second motion seeking to exclude the medical records on the grounds that the top of the form contains the name and address of Northwestern Medical Center, and records were obtained from Fletcher Allen Health Center, where at least one of the three physicians has his practice. The state responds that the records are from the three physicians named on the release. Names provided – and spelled – by Webster.
The defense intends to put Webster’s wife on the stand. The motion hearing has been continued until a date not yet set.