Jury members spent less than two hours deliberating the morning of June 29 before finding a Newburg man guilty of the Thanksgiving 2004 slaying of a Waldorf bartender.
Attorneys made their closing arguments the previous afternoon, wrapping up a four-day murder trial that was nearly eight years in the making.
Jurors chose to return the next morning to begin considering the fate of Matthew Derek Correll, 31, who was charged with gunning down Christopher Mader, 23, as he drove home after getting off from his job bartending at Bennigan’s the morning of Thanksgiving 2004.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts, bringing closure for investigators and Mader’s family members, who have spent the past eight years searching for his killer.
“Christopher Mader’s killer has finally been brought to justice, and that’s due to the great efforts of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office and Detectives [Keith] Moody and [Kevin] Keelan, who worked this case for years and came up with the information to not jump to conclusions, not rush to judgment but put all the pieces in place where not only we believed but obviously the jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that Correll was a murderer,” Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony B. Covington (D) said. “We’re quite happy that we’re able to bring some closure and peace, if you will, for the Mader family and Christopher Mader’s soul.”
Mader had just gotten off from work as a bartender at a Bennigan’s and was driving on Smallwood Drive, seconds from his Hampshire home, when he was shot in the head about 2:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving. His Dodge Stratus careened off the road and crashed into a signpost and power box near William B. Wade Elementary School.
An off-duty D.C. policeman who lived nearby heard a single gunshot and arrived on the scene to discover the wreck and Mader’s body inside.
“Instead of having dinner with his family, he was on a slab at the medical examiner’s office,” Charles County Deputy State’s Attorney Karen Piper told the jury during her closing argument.
Officers suspected Mader, who had just finished working on one of the busiest nights of the year for a bartender and was carrying with him a hefty amount in tips, was the target of a botched robbery attempt, but the case went cold and remained so for close to six years, before investigators finally received tips that pointed to Correll as Mader’s killer.
“As the verdict was about to be read, all I could think about was the years of hard work everyone contributed throughout this investigation,” Moody said in a statement. “I also recalled the morning of the murder when I notified the family of Christopher Mader’s death. Then to hear the verdict of guilty, it is a moment I will never forget.”
Keelan said, “Matt Correll has finally been held accountable for his actions. . . . It is my hope everyone involved and affected can find solace in this conviction.”
Correll was indicted on first-degree murder charges Oct. 15, 2010, and arrested a week later. The jury found him guilty of first- and second-degree murder, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and two counts of use of a handgun in commission of a violent crime.
“Chris Mader’s murder was a random, cold act of violence, and nothing pleases me more than knowing the person who killed him will go to jail where he belongs,” Charles County Sheriff Rex Coffey (D) said in a statement. “In the six years it took to put this case together, our detectives worked hard and they never gave up. They pursued every lead until they identified the shooter and they built a solid case. We worked as a team with our State’s Attorney’s Office, who did an exceptional job prosecuting the case. In the end, this has to be one of the most satisfying verdicts I’ve experienced in all my years in law enforcement.”
Jurors heard testimony from those who tipped off the police, as well as from Mader’s co-workers and two people who claimed to be with Correll at the time of the shooting, including Shawn Marshall Myers, 34, of Waldorf, who was indicted as Correll’s accomplice in April 2011 and charged with first-degree murder, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and related counts.
But last winter, prosecutors offered Myers a plea deal in exchange for his testimony at Correll’s trial. Myers entered an Alford plea in November to conspiracy to commit robbery. Per his plea agreement, Myers can be given only a suspended prison sentence, but the terms and conditions of his probation are at the court’s discretion.
Myers is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 13.
Myers testified that he, Correll and a third man waited in a car outside Bennigan’s for Mader to get off work and then followed him as he drove home.
Myers said he was driving when Correll told him to stop and got out of the car. About 30 seconds later, Myers testified, a gunshot went off and he sped away with the third man in the back seat, leaving Correll at the scene.
Defense attorney Robert C. Bonsib questioned the reliability of Myers and the other witnesses, arguing in his closing statement that it was more likely that Myers and the third man committed the murder on their own, pulling up next to Mader and ordering him to pull over before shooting him in the left temple.
“If you cannot discount that as a reasonable possibility, then the state has not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Bonsib said.
In his rebuttal to Bonsib’s closing argument, Covington called the attorney a “master manipulator of the facts” and begged the jury to pay attention to witnesses’ testimony instead of the defense’s theories.
“Some decisions are for forever, and the decision to pull a trigger and put a bullet in someone’s head ended a life forever, and that’s what this defendant did,” Covington said.
Bonsib filed a motion for a new trial July 6, claiming that Charles County Circuit Judge Robert C. Nalley erred by barring the attorney from challenging the credibility of some of the witnesses by asking them about their criminal histories, court papers state.