Joey Mathews can still name all five men convicted of killing his father, Chicago Police Officer John Mathews, in Hegewisch 26 years ago, and he’s furious one of them has been coaching youth baseball in the same neighborhood, years after finishing his prison sentence.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Joey Mathews was 4 years old when his father was beaten to death by a group of young men near Wolf Lake on the night of May 21, 1988.
“My dad never had a chance to coach me. I don’t have a single memory of my dad,” he said.
One of the five men convicted of the crime, Dean Chavez, served 11 years in prison for second-degree murder. In recent years, he has been coaching in the Hegewisch Babe Ruth Baseball program. Earlier this season, he was removed by the national president of the Babe Ruth League, at the request of Mathews’ family.
“He may have served his time in prison. I know my family will forever. Until the day I’m dead, I’ll be serving my time. That’s not some sort of a grudge against him. The fact of the matter is he beat my dad to death with baseball bats, and he’s trying to coach kids to play baseball. I think it’s pretty audacious,” Joey Mathews said.
Nearly 30 years after his father’s death, Mathews said he can still rattle off the names of all five men convicted in connection his father’s murder. Chavez and his brother, Anthony, were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 27 years, James Kennedy was sentenced to 20 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, Ralph Gabriel was convicted of second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 10 years. Edward Manzo, who testified against the Chavz brothers, pleaded guilty to concealing a homicide and was sentenced to two years.
“If I develop Alzheimer’s in the later stages of my life, I feel like that may be the only names I remember. I grew obsessed with the case when I was 8 years old, because my family moved to Naperville, and I started wondering why everyone had a dad, and I didn’t,” Mathews said.
Mathews said he learned recently his voice is the same as his dad’s, after seeing a family video. “I was so proud that I had something of his, you know?” he said.
He said the strain this has put on his mother prompted him to act. “I just see her as a 23-year-old widow again, and it breaks my heart,” he said. “I think it’s … I understand life’s unfair, and this is certainly unfair as well, but I have to look beyond my individual scope, and focus on what I can do now to make sure it doesn’t happen to anybody in the future.”
He wants the Hegewisch board removed, and to make sure Chavez can’t coach again.
“The parents of players that are in the league just assume ‘Oh, they know he’s a good guy. No big deal.’ And now they find this out. It’s like, what are you doing? Why are you letting my kid around a murderer when you know he’s a murderer?” Mathews said.
One board member said this was the first year background checks were required for coaches, and to the best of her knowledge, a background check was done, but Mathews wasn’t buying it.
Chavez himself said he’s not interested in coaching again, and will pay for his crime for the rest of his life.
The league has scheduled an open meeting for Wednesday night at Steve’s Lounge in Hegewisch.
Thanks to Mike Krauser.
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