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Attorney: Deputy was helping a customer carry items when accused of shoplifting

NC GAZETTE / WBRT RADIO
STAFF REPORT

Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019 (UPDATE: Added Sheriff’s statements 3:30 p.m.) — The Nelson County deputy who was charged with shoplifting was only trying to help a fellow patron of a auction warehouse business carry her items out of the store.

LT. KAELEN MATTHEWS

In a statement released by Keith Sparks, the attorney representing Lt. Kaelen Matthews, Matthews and his fiancé are accused by Elizabethtown Police of shoplifting four, six-foot-tall nutcrackers from the auction warehouse.

Matthews told investigators that when he and his fiancé were at the business, a woman told them she purchased the statues and a cooler said she didn’t have a truck to carrying them home. Matthews agreed to help the woman.

According to Sparks, the investigators ignored Matthews’ explanation of how he got involved in what ended up as the removal of the items without them being paid for.

“Lt. Matthews’ description is much more realistic than the allegation that a law enforcement veteran, with 17 years of experience and a spotless record, would walk into a building, with video cameras inside and out, and steal 6-foot statues without any attempt at concealment,” Sparks wrote.

“One explanation makes sense, the other doesn’t. For some reason, the investigators chose to believe the one that doesn’t.”

Matthews and his fiancé deny any wrongdoing; they were simply trying to help someone because they were in a pickup truck and had the time to help the woman.

Sparks said Matthews and his financé expect to be exonerated of the shoplifting charge.

“Everyone needs to withhold judgment until Kaelen and Lora have their day in court.”

Sparks, of McCoy & Sparks PLLC, will represent the couple in regard to the Hardin County shoplifting charges.

NC SHERIFF’S STATEMENT. Just before 3 p.m. Saturday, Nelson County Sheriff Ramon Pineiroa issued a press release regarding Matthews and the theft investigation.

Pineiroa learned of the investigation from Matthews on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, and Pineiroa suspended Matthews with pay on Thursday. After learning of Matthews arrest, he was suspended without pay on Saturday pending the investigation by the Elizabethtown Police Department.

“Today is a sad day for our agency and our deputies,” Pineiroa said in the press release.

“I would just ask that you keep in mind, that the actions of one individual do NOT reflect on an entire agency or the rest of our employees.”

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