2002 Sniper 'Witness' Convicted of Rape, Murder

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 18, 2007

Matthew M. Dowdy served a short but well-publicized jail stint for his false claim that he witnessed a sniper shooting in 2002. His latest offense was far less notorious but probably will land him in prison for the rest of his life.

A Fairfax County jury convicted Dowdy yesterday of first-degree murder and rape for the September 2005 stabbing of Judy J. "Jaimie" Coate in the Falls Church area. The jury then sentenced Dowdy, 42, to life in prison on the murder charge and 30 years on the rape charge -- terms that Circuit Court Judge Stanley P. Klein can impose or decrease at sentencing April 20.

The slaying of Coate, 31, of Falls Church, whose body was discovered behind a large utility box on Lee Highway on Sept. 27, 2005, was unrelated to Dowdy's arrest in October 2002, at the height of the region's terror over the sniper slayings. Dowdy claimed he saw a man with a rifle fire from the parking lot at the Home Depot in the Seven Corners area, killing Linda G. Franklin.

Surveillance tapes soon showed that Dowdy was inside the store and could not have seen the shooting. His lawyer later claimed that Dowdy was simply relaying information from a friend, though the shot was actually fired from a community center across the street from the store. Dowdy pleaded no contest to a charge of making a false statement to an officer, was fined $1,000 and was sentenced to six months in jail.

In 2005, Dowdy was living in a motel in the city of Falls Church. When Coate's body was found in some underbrush, she had been stabbed in the neck, head, stomach and back, said Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. And "a great deal of blood," Coate's blood, was on the utility box, he said.

Examiners testified that Dowdy's fingerprint and palm print were in Coate's blood on the box, and they said his DNA was found at the scene. There were no witnesses to the killing.

Dowdy testified that he had been with Coate and had consensual sex with her but had not killed her. Defense attorney Daniel T. Lopez said that the fingerprint evidence had been "handled poorly" by investigators and that the palm print was not Dowdy's.

The jury deliberated about seven hours over two days before reaching its verdict.

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