A Clarification on the Death of Katlyn Long

by Tim Stelloh, May 6, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, an odd story ran in the Fort Bragg Advocate about the unsolved death of 22-year old Katlyn Long — the coast girl who died suspiciously nearly a year ago.

Quoting county detective Sgt. Greg VanPatten, the article provided a thoroughly perplexing explanation about why the case has remained static.

"Investigators are still trying to get statements from a key person in the case. However, that person's attorneys are making it tough..." the article reported. "'The attorneys want more time,'" said Sgt. VanPatten, "'I have pretty much said it's now or never'."

Then, another round of gobbledygook for the journalism textbooks: "He said that as of last week, attorneys have not recontacted the Sheriff's Office and he has not crossed paths with them." Right. Who is this "key person," and why is he not being named? Is that the Advocate's decision or VanPatten's? And why are the cops sitting on their butts, waiting "to cross paths" with the attorney of this "key person?"

According to VanPatten, the person is Long's ex-boyfriend (he said he told the Advocate that as well.) "He's not a suspect, or a person of interest," VanPatten said. "We just want to find out what he observed."

As the AVA reported last year, the ex-boyfriend is Garrett Matson, son of Jerry Matson, owner of Matson Construction and a former member of the Fort Bragg Planning Commission. The younger Matson was with Long when she stopped breathing on May 29. He was with her the last 12 hours of her life, and so far he's given VanPatten squat about Long's final hours. But according to the detective, it's not for lack of trying.

"We've had constant conversations with him. It's been a negotiation with the ex-boyfriend and the attorney, and he's given us nothing so far," he said. "He's a big piece of the puzzle, and he's dictating where the case will go from here on out."

VanPatten was perfectly willing to say "the key person" is the ex-boyfriend; he wouldn't cross that line because the sheriff's department doesn't want to strain its negotiations with Matson and his attorney, he said. Since the ex was the only one with Long before she died, VanPatten said, getting him to talk is crucial to solving the case — yet there's nothing the police can do to force him to give the statement.

Regardless of Matson's decision, VanPatten said he expects to release detailed information this week describing the circumstances of Long's death — information like the results of a toxicology report. If Matson's silence continues, detectives will hand the case off, he said.

"If he doesn't talk to us this week, we'll present the info we have to the district attorney," he said. "Basically, we'll have to look at the puzzle without his piece included."

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