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Jury recommends death penalty for former federal building guard found guilty of murdering 2 teens

Posted at 5:36 PM, Oct 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-19 08:42:00-04

CLEVELAND — A jury has recommended the death penalty for a former security officer of a federal building who was found guilty of murdering two teenagers in Cuyahoga County.

Matthew Nicholson, 30, worked for a contractor as a private security officer at the AJC Federal Building in Cleveland, which houses the Cleveland field office of the Department of Homeland Security.

On Sept. 5, 2018, Nicholson got off work and drove to a house owned by his girlfriend near East 86th Street and Garfield Boulevard in Garfield Heights. When he arrived at the house, Nicholson got into an argument with his girlfriend over her texting an ex-boyfriend and he attacked her. He strangled the woman and struck her in the face multiple times, according to court records.

The woman’s 17-year-old son, Manuel Lopez, tried to defend his mother and intervened in their altercation. The woman separated them and called the police, but Nicholson left and retrieved a gun. The woman’s 19-year-old daughter, Giselle Lopez, had arrived home from work during the fight. Nicholson, gun in hand, ordered the two teens to run outside as he fired 13 shots at them, according to court records.

Both teens suffered multiple gunshot wounds in the back. Manuel Lopez was pronounced dead at the scene while Giselle Lopez was transported to a nearby hospital where she underwent emergency surgery but later died from her injuries, police said.

After a four-hour standoff with the Southeast Area Law Enforcement SWAT Team, Nicholson was arrested.

Nicholson’s trial ended last Thursday when a jury found him guilty of two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, two counts of felonious assault and one count of attempted felonious assault, according to a news release from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.

The jury’s guilty verdict of aggravated murder indicated the crime was part of a course of conduct involving the purposeful killing of two or more persons, which is one of the qualifying factors for the death penalty, the release states.

On Friday, after being presented with evidence about whether Nicholson deserved the death penalty, the jury in the case decided that the aggravated circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances and returned a verdict imposing the death sentence on both counts of aggravated murder, according to court officials.

Nicholson's sentencing hearing was scheduled for November 13 at 12:30 p.m.


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