October 27, 2016

AGE: 32

DIED: SEPT. 30, 1991

Location: West Branch/Springdale

On Monday, Sept. 30, 1991, Tom Mather was shot in the head and slashed several times in his home on County Road X-40 one mile north of the West Liberty exit off Interstate 80. His wife, 24-year-old Dawn Mather, said he was shot by a naked intruder and that she (also naked) escaped to a nearby farmhouse.

Dawn reportedly told Tom’s parents that a naked man appeared in the couple’s living room with a gun and two pieces of rope at 8:40 p.m. The intruder said he was there to rob them. The intruder tied up Tom and then ordered Dawn to remove her clothes before tying her up as well. She was able to free herself and Tom told her to run.

Dawn described her husband’s alleged murderer as a white male, about 30 years old, around 6 feet tall, with a slender- to medium-build, and straight, bleached-blond hair darker toward the ends.

Immediately following Tom Mather’s murder, many questioned his wife’s involvement, and Cedar County Sheriff Keith Whitlatch responded with a well-known fact investigators regularly acknowledge; many murders are committed by a person close to the victim. “Anytime you have a spouse killed, the public thinks it’s the surviving spouse who did it. And quite frankly, sometimes it is. ... And at this point, we can’t say (Tom’s wife) is or isn’t [responsible],” Whitlatch said.

Whitlatch employed help from the news media in attempts to solve Mather’s murder, including a crime re-enactment televised by KCRG-TV9 on Nov. 18, 1992. The re-enactment revealed several previously undisclosed facts about the case, including the focus on a late-model, blue Pontiac Grand Am that was seen near the Mathers’ home about 6:45 p.m. the night of the murder. A couple were seen exiting a similar car in the Mathers’ driveway that night between 8 and 8:30.

Tracks found in a cornfield there also could match the dimensions of those of a Grand Am, according to police.

A man dressed in tan coveralls was seen coming from the direction of the cornfield, carrying a pole or pipe about 8:45. The re-enactment also revealed that a light-colored car was seen quickly leaving the Mathers’ driveway about 6:55. A light-colored car also was seen parked in the driveway about 8:45.

During the re-enactment, one witness described seeing a man standing near the blue Pontiac Grand Am talking to a woman wearing a light green dotted blouse and skirt. The tip prompted investigators to serve a search warrant on Dawn’s apartment, where they found green polka-dotted clothing items like those described by the witness.

Whitlatch held out hope, stating that officials never had ruled out Dawn Mather as a suspect in her husband’s murder. Dawn Mather obtained a lawyer who advised her against speaking further with police, and she promptly moved out of state.