Defendant Who Fatally Shot a Man in the Head While Driving and Dumped the Body in a Field Sentenced Following August Murder Conviction
January 13, 2023
Brighton, CO — Today, 17th Judicial District Attorney Brian Mason is announcing the Second-Degree Murder conviction of Christopher Matthews, 22, after a five-day jury trial in Adams County District Court.
In the early morning hours of August 13, 2020, Christopher Matthews, who was 20 years old at the time, picked up Tanner Banderet, 20, from an apartment complex in Westminster to complete a cocaine deal. As Matthews was driving his Cadillac near 116th Avenue and Pecos Street, the defendant grabbed his Glock handgun that was sitting in the cup holder of the center console, pointed it at Banderet, and fired a single shot that struck the victim behind the left ear in the carotid artery.
While the victim was dying in the front seat of Matthews truck, the defendant took off his shirt and threw it over Banderet's head. Matthews then drove to a field along West 84th Avenue in Westminster and dumped the victim's body. Before leaving the scene, Matthews emptied Banderet's pockets. The defendant left with cash, cocaine, and the victim's identification.
Matthews proceeded to deep clean his vehicle and dispose of the evidence before Westminster Police eventually landed on the defendant as the lead suspect in this case. Matthews conjured up a number of lies about what happened before eventually landing on a story of self-defense.
Throughout the course of the five-day jury trial in Adams County, the prosecution managed to disprove the self-defense claim, and the jury ultimately rejected it with their verdict.
On August 12, 2022, an Adams County Jury convicted Matthews of the following charge:
Second-Degree Murder (F2)
On January 11, 2023, an Adams County Judge sentenced Matthews to 35 years in the Department of Corrections.
"This defendant destroyed a life,” said District Attorney Brian Mason. “He will now serve a lengthy sentence for this serious crime. I am grateful to my team at the DA’s Office for their hard work on this challenging case and to the jury for returning a just verdict.”
Senior Lead Deputy District Attorney Katie Konecny and Senior Deputy District Attorney Natalie Scarpella led the prosecution of this case.
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District Attorney Mason assumed the oath of office on January 12, 2021. The 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office endeavors to seek justice on behalf of the citizens of Adams and Broomfield counties in felony and misdemeanor cases. DA Mason and his staff are dedicated to transforming the criminal justice system to better serve the citizens of the 17th Judicial District.
Ms. Gazelka is a forensic therapist and clinician in Denver, Colorado. She is currently focused on providing therapy and assessment services to adult offenders in the community corrections and parole systems as a supervisor at Correctional Psychology Associates (CPA). Her education and career have been devoted to the intersection of psychology and law since 2000. Ms. Gazelka has been working within the field of forensic and correctional psychology since 2006, providing therapy in the community and acute mental health care and risk assessments in county jails. She has practiced as a Licensed Professional Counselor since June 2012. She also became a Licensed Addiction Counselor in March 2014. She was listed as a full operating level DVOMB Approved Provider in June 2019 and started a fledgling DV program oriented to Colorado’s Department of Corrections at CPA in September 2019. Ms. Gazelka was appointed to the Domestic Violence Offender Management Board (DVOMB) in March 2019 and has started her second term with the board. Ms. Gazelka has been recognized for her work as Contributor of the Year at CPA in 2010 and 2012, as well as having been awarded an Alumni Impact Award for her forensic work in the community by University of Denver’s GSPP in 2019. Ms. Gazelka received her Master of Arts degree in Forensic Clinical Psychology from University of Denver's Graduate School of Professional Psychology in 2009. Ms. Gazelka also received her Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law in 2007, obtaining attorney’s licenses in both Minnesota and Colorado (currently inactive).
Alex Castro Croy
Alex Castro Croy is a bilingual, bicultural, Trauma and Addiction Counselor and owner/Lead Clinician of Life Recovery Centers in Denver and Northglenn Colorado.
A first-generation immigrant from Mexico who accomplished his dream in higher education receiving an AA in Pastoral Ministry (Dallas, Texas), Bachelor of Science in Human Services (MSU in Denver, Colorado) and MA in Community Counseling from Regis University (Denver, Co). He is continuing to pursue his MA/Ph.D. from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Jungian and Archetypal Studies.
Alex’s passion includes training, teaching, counseling, and consulting. He has been an Adjunct Professor for the Human Services Department at MSU-Denver for 9 years. He has served as an Interventionist for the Latino GLBTQ community, Drug Court Probation Officer at Denver Juvenile Court Probation (8 years), Bilingual Diversion Officer for Denver DA office (5 years), and currently owner and director of Life Recovery Centers (7 years). He has worked with a variety of clients from all walks of life and his eclectic therapeutic interventions have proven to be effective in treating trauma and addiction.
Thea Wessel is an addictions counselor with a private practice in Colorado. She has been working in the criminal and addiction fields for thirteen years. Ms. Wessel earned her Masters in forensic psychology from the University of Denver and has her LPC, LAC, MAC, NCAAC, and ADS. She is working towards her Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Ms. Wessel continually challenges herself and others to provide quality addiction treatment and ways to continue to educate the community about addiction issues.