Chesterton Tribune

Matson property was stolen goods judge rules

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An investigation set in motion by one family’s tragedy unexpectedly eased the pain of another family’s loss Tuesday.

Porter Superior Court Judge Thomas Webber ruled that items once in the possession of convicted murderer Christopher Matson, now serving 65 years in prison for the May 28, 2000 murder of Porter business owner Rick Pinkerton, belong to the late Joseph Chlupacek of Griffith.

The estimated $5,688 in assorted jewelry and related items was ordered returned to Chlupacek’s family.

Webber also ruled other items valued at approximately $238, seized in a search of an Arizona trailer where Matson had asked his ex-wife to keep some of his belongings, may be sold by Porter County and the money used to offset $25,080 in additional legal expenses for depositions and travel incurred by Matson’s salaried public defender prior to and during his May, 2001 murder trial.

Chlupacek’s daughter, Sandy Laurinas, testified her father, known as “Diamond Joe,” was a retired jeweler who kept a workroom in his Griffith home. The residence was burglarized May 2, 1999 during Chlupacek’s funeral visitation after an obituary was published in area newspapers.

After viewing specific items, Laurinas told Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Todd Shellenbarger, “I’m 100 percent sure they belonged to my father,” with whom she worked for 20 years. She also identified her father’s handwriting on some of the jewelry capsules, and jade identical to the stones he used in a bracelet given to her.

Jeweler Greg Engstrom, who testified he examined the jewelry at the request of police, said the loose pearls, pricetags, broken stones and clasps, replacement parts and jeweler’s tools were usually found on or below a jeweler’s bench. Porter County Sheriff’s Detective Jerry Kratowicz also testified the watches, jewelry holders, loose gemstones and pieces of gold bands cut from sized rings “wasn’t something an ordinary citizen would have.”

“It’s an emotional thing,” said Laurinas after the hearing. “Getting this back is important to my family. We didn’t think we’d see it after all this time. It was shocking to think this was connected (to Pinkerton’s murder).”

Matson, brought under guard from Indiana State Prison in Michigan City wearing tan prison garb, acted as his own attorney and told Webber the jewelry and other items seized and held by police were his and should be returned to him.

"My property had nothing to do with the case I was found guilty of,” said Matson. “To this day I haven’t been charged with anything stolen.”

That could change. After the hearing, Shellenbarger said, “I think we solved another burglary. I don’t know if it will be pursued.” Referring to Chlupacek’s published obituary, “At least we found out today Mr. Matson can read a newspaper,” Shellenbarger added.

Webber denied Matson’s request for an injunction blocking transfer of the jewelry to Laurinas because Matson would have to post a bond and the career criminal, who received an additional 30-year sentence June 13, 2001 for being a habitual offender, is indigent. Matson indicated he will appeal Webber’s rulings.

Matson, originally of Griffith, previously was convicted of both robbery and attempted robbery in Lake County in 1984 and of two alcohol-related driving convictions. Police believe Pinkerton, then 56, was shot in the foyer of his U.S. 20 Porter home in a botched robbery attempt by Matson, who once worked for Pinkerton as a landscaper.

Matson claimed Tuesday the Porter County Sheriff’s Department and the Porter Police Department or others were in wrongful possession of more of his property such as a car, money, a color television, a weight bench, a satellite dish and a comic book collection Matson maintained was worth $1,500.

Kratowicz and Shellerbarger said the remaining disputed items, if all of them existed, were either not seized or in the possession of Matson’s landlord at his Las Vegas apartment, where he was living under the alias Troy Gardow at the time of the murder, or were collected and could be in the possession of the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department in Arizona, where Matson was arrested two days after fleeing into the desert to avoid capture.

Under his combined sentence of 95 years in prison, Matson will be 83 years old when released if he serves the minimum 47 years of his sentence.


Posted 2/20/2002