A man drove across the country to confess to a 1997 killing because he misinterpreted messages about a prescription medicine as a veiled reference to the stranger he bludgeoned, a detective says.
Matthew Gibson, 55, was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison for the death of Barbara Leone Brown in Bullhead City, Arizona. Authorities “didn’t even know he existed” before Gibson drove from North Carolina to Arizona this summer to confess that he beat the 38-year-old woman with a flashlight and ditched her body in the Colorado River on the night they met.
His lawyer, Ron Gilleo, said Gibson came clean because “he just wanted it off his chest." An investigator, however, contends that Gibson spoke up because he thought someone was onto him.
Detective Alicia Marquez of the Winslow Police Department in Arizona told the Charlotte Observer that Gibson had begun receiving voicemails and text messages from Walmart saying that “Anita Townshed’s” prescription was ready. Because Gibson didn’t know the name of the woman he killed, he worried that Townshed was the victim and that someone found out what he did to her.
He then received an envelope with no return address that contained an ad from Walmart and started fearing that there was "a contract on his head."
Marquez told the Observer that Gibson had deleted the texts and voicemails, but that Gibson told her if he had never received them, he never would have come forward.
Last week, Gilleo told the Washington Post that if Gibson, who had no prior criminal record, had never turned himself in, Brown's death “would still be an unsolved crime.”