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Man formally charged with murder after a body was discovered in a Westminster field

Posted at 1:21 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 15:33:54-04

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — A man has been formally charged with first-degree murder after a body with "obvious trauma" and a gunshot wound to the head was found in a Westminster field on Aug. 13.

Christopher John Matthews, 20, now faces charges of first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree felony murder and and aggravated robbery, according to the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. He was advised of the charges against him on Friday.

The man who was found deceased in the field was identified as Tanner Andre Banderet, 20.

On Aug. 13 around 6:20 p.m., officers with the Westminster Police Department were called out to 84th W. Avenue and Shaw Boulevard after a body was spotted in a nearby field, according to an arrest affidavit for Matthews. When officers arrived, they found Banderet deceased.

According to an affidavit, the man had "obvious trauma," including bruising on his face and bloodied clothing.

Investigators determined the death was a homicide. An autopsy confirmed Banderet had been shot behind his left ear. The pathologist believed that Banderet had been killed late in the evening on Aug. 12 or early in the morning on Aug. 13.

According to an affidavit, he had called the Broomfield Police Department on Aug. 12 after Banderet and his brother were involved in a fight. His brother later told Westminster police that they had gotten into a fight about him not being allowed at his apartment complex, where Banderet had allegedly "caused previous problems," according to the affidavit.

As Banderet left the property, his brother heard him asking a friend over the phone to send him an Uber or Lyft since he did not own a vehicle, according to an affidavit. The brother said the last time he heard from his brother was via a Snapchat in which he was singing and "obviously intoxicated," according to an affidavit.

When authorities contacted Banderet's parents, they said they had last talked with him over the phone on Aug. 10, according to an affidavit.

The Westminster Police Department served a search warrant for Banderet's phone records and were able to see the cell phone's last activities were in the area of 116 Avenue and Pecos Street. It stopped reporting cell tower data at 2:13 a.m. on Aug. 13. There were 100 actions on the phone between then and 6 p.m. the prior evening, according to an affidavit.

His body was found several miles away from the cell phone tower.

Detectives interviewed a friend of Banderet who said he'd drive Banderet around so he could deal drugs. In return, Banderet paid his rent. The man was confirmed to have been with family when Benderet went missing, and told detectives he didn't know who would have killed him. However, he noted that he thought Benderet owed people money and used a phone app called Cash App to exchange money for drugs, according to an affidavit.

When police found his body, he was missing his backpack and fanny pack that always contained drugs and cash, according to an affidavit. He didn't have a cell phone or any identifying items on him.

Authorities began investigating a man who was a known associate of Benderet's and contacted him at his apartment. The man said he had last seen Benderet around Aug. 12 when he was picked up at the apartment by an unknown individual driving a black Cadillac car to go to what the man thought was another deal. A short time later, Benderet called the associate, who said all he could hear was Benderet say "police," according to an affidavit.

Benderet had left his backpack at his associate's apartment, the man told police. When he talked to police, he was wearing Benderet's hat and also had his T-shirt, according to an affidavit.

On Aug. 25, as detectives reviewed cell phone records from Benderet's phone, they saw he had made a call around 10:19 p.m. on Aug. 12 to a number registered as belonging to Christopher Matthews.

Detectives talked with Matthews over the phone and he explained that he had known Benderet for several years and purchased drugs from him, but doesn't consider him a friend. He said it had been about a month since he saw Benderet when Benderet called to ask for a ride after he was kicked out of an apartment. He said Benderet had asked for another ride at a later time, but Matthews declined and hadn't heard from him since, according to an affidavit.

Detectives said they had found several connections between the two men's phones on the evening of Aug. 12, but Matthews said he had passed out that night and loaned his car — a 2011 black Cadillac CTS sedan — and phone to a friend, who was 19 and had been recently kicked out of her home, according to an affidavit.

Police could not find anybody who matched her name.

When police were able to get in contact with Matthews next, on the afternoon of Aug. 27, he said he was in Las Vegas with family and wouldn't be back for a month.

That same afternoon, in Westminster, Matthews' brother was placed in custody on an active felony warrant. During an interview, the brother said he had overheard Matthews say he was scared because he was "in too deep" and knew police were looking for him. He stated he had "hurt someone really bad" and was trying to evade police by fleeing to Arizona in his car, according to an affidavit.

The Cadillac registered to Matthews was observed via license plate readers in Arizona around Kingman, Holbrook and Seligman.

In early September, detectives spoke with Matthews's girlfriend, who said she had been with him for most of the day on Aug. 12.

That evening, he was supposed to leave for a night shift at FedEx, but his girlfriend woke up at 3:30 a.m. to discover he hadn't gone to work. He drove to her residence and was "unusually quiet" and "seemed to be in a bad mood," the woman told police, according to an affidavit. She said she thought Matthews had made some deals. She also said she noticed some blood on the hat he was wearing.

When asked why he didn't go to work, Matthews explained to her that he picked somebody up at an apartment complex and when they drove away, the man shot himself in the head, according to an affidavit. He later admitted to her that he had shot Benderet and put his body in a field. He expressed concern about leaving tire impressions on the soft dirt, according to an affidavit.

The tire tracks of the Cadillac matched the tracks found in the field near Benderet's body.

The woman told police that Matthews has a history of cocaine addictions and typically has firearms in his possession. He had disposed of the firearm after the shooting, he told the woman, according to an affidavit.

The woman later spotted when she thought was dried blood on the front passenger seat of Matthews' Cadillac.

Afterward, Matthews cleaned the car at his mother's house.

When asked why the woman didn't come forward with this information, she said she was afraid that she would be killed, according to an affidavit.

As a result of this investigation, authorities were able to identify Matthews as a suspect and he was taken into custody on Sept. 4.

A preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 6 in Adams County District Court.