Confessions of a Killer: Salazar Contemplates the Next 99 Years

 

“There’s a time in all of our lives where we come to the end of ourselves. That’s what this is,” Matthew Salazar said with a broad smile. In his right hand, he holds a phone tethered to an electronic screen the jail uses for video visitation. A small cell is visible in the background, where he stands clad in an orange jumpsuit.

Despite having been sentenced to “death by prison” only two days prior, Salazar appears alert, clear-headed and curiously optimistic. He seems to have come to terms with his punishment and to have accepted the jury’s decision as “God’s will”.

“My life’s over. I’m going to prison… I’m going to bring Jesus to everyone I can,” he said. “When you’re actually at a point of hopelessness, when all you have is God…[you have to remember] what Jesus had done for us; taken his life on the cross.”

For the next 30-99 years, he said, Salazar plans to be a missionary, “falling into the arms of God” to steer his life behind bars. His faith, he stated, is all he has left, and without it he likely would have taken his own life before his case ever made it to trial.

Implicating the emotional turmoil and realization of his sins, Salazar offered the following quote from A.W. Tozer as a summation of how far he's come:

No man has truly repented until his sin has wounded him near to death, until the wound has broken him and defeated him and taken all the fight and self-assurance out of him and he sees himself as the one who nailed his Saviour on the tree.

The quote, he said, very accurately describes how he's come to look at his acts over the past year as he awaited trial.

Although the District Attorney had offered him a plea bargain with a term set at 50 years, Salazar said it was important for him to go to trial in order to right some of the wrongs he committed against the family of Heather Felts Salazar on Aug. 31, 2013. That is  when he pulled the trigger and ended her life, branding himself a murderer for the rest of his.

“I took it to trial because her family wouldn’t have gotten any closure [from a plea bargain],” he said Saturday. “I wasn’t expecting 99 years, but how do you put a number on someone’s life?”

Salazar confessed to the murder of his wife immediately after the incident, calling first 911, then friends to alert them of what he’d done. Once taken into custody, he waived his rights and issued a written confession to the Texas Rangers and the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office. Since then, he has spent nearly a year in jail awaiting trial.

Many things have gone through his head since he was first booked into the jail, he said. Most of all, however, he’s been trying to understand how he got to the point mentally that murder seemed like an option.

“Given my background and [how I was raised], I’ve been in here a year contemplating how a person like me could take another person’s life,” Salazar said, visibly still struggling to find an answer.

During his trial, witnesses mentioned that Salazar was raised in a family of missionaries, and at various points in his adult life was very actively involved in the church. Now, he said, his faith is all he has left.

“When you watch your wife die in your arms from a gunshot wound that you inflicted, that changes you,” he said, alluding to the hopelessness he’s felt since the incident. “…When we’re chasing the love of a human that only God is supposed to feel, things get messed up.”

Salazar said that he’s replayed the events of the day of the shooting in his mind repeatedly since he’s been in jail, but still does not have an answer for why he brought a gun into Bradley Floyd’s house that afternoon.  

“Between walking out of the truck and walking through the door is a blur,” he said, recalling the day of the incident. He says that he can recall with clarity spotting his wife’s purse and seeing his wife's lover, Floyd, walk naked down the hall with an erection. At that moment, he said, he felt shocked, betrayed and in disbelief, as he moved forward with the gun in his hand and fired on his wife and her lover.

What exactly he was thinking as he pulled the trigger, Salazar could not explain, but described the action as occurring at the command of a mind not his own.

“My mind wasn’t behind the finger that pulled the trigger,” he repeated over the telephone. A similar statement appeared in his written confession given while in custody, “If I understand the definition of temporary insanity, this right here was it”.

On Aug. 21, the jury in Salazar’s trial heard evidence in the punishment phase, a large portion of which was meant to either prove or disprove whether he had acted in sudden passion. When sent to deliberate, the jury was given instructions, including the punishment ranges for first-degree murder (5-99 years) and the range for murder with sudden passion (2-20 years).

Salazar believes that if the jury had not been aware of how sudden passion would limit the range of punishment they could assess, they would have returned a verdict that included sudden passion.

He does plan to appeal the case, he said, adding, “I’m going to pursue all my legal rights”, however he still has a pending indictment for the attempted murder of Bradley Floyd. Up until now, Salazar has not received word on how the district attorney plans to proceed with the case, and stated he has no comment on how he will move forward as he is not yet familiar enough with the legal aspects. 

While in prison, he plans to “take full advantage of whatever the TDCJ will offer me, but ultimately it’s [what God wants],” he said. His mother, father, ex-wife and her husband, as well as a few friends that testified on his behalf have become a strong support system, he said, but expressed deep sorrow as to how his actions have affected both his own two children, as well as Heather’s.

“It’s a tragic situation,” he said. “There are a lot of people suffering here, but the kids are going to suffer the greatest.

Salazar plans to keep in touch with his children, and would like to keep in touch with Heather’s sons, but admitted that contact with the two boys is unrealistic, unless their guardians allow them to visit. 

“I guess they can look me up one day when I get out,” he said.

Following the sentencing on Aug. 21, Heather’s mother said she had been able to forgive Salazar, noting a specific moment in court when their eyes met and he nodded in acceptance of his fate.

“I felt a relief myself when we made eye contact,” he said. “I wanted to apologize to everyone involved, specifically Arnold, her dad. He was a friend of mine before I even met Heather…I want everyone to know that Heather was a great mother, a great wife and a great business partner…I forgive Bradley, even though that’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”

The Grape Creek Murder Trial, as it unfolded in the Tom Green County Courthouse in August 2014:

 

 

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