PALMETTO (FOX 13) - Deputies say a woman is dead after going to a man's home Tuesday to retrieve her dog. Instead of being greeted by her pet at the door, she was met with gunfire.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office arrested 83-year-old Eugene Matthews for the shooting death of Rebecca Rawson, who celebrated her 65th birthday just three days before.
According the deputies, Rawson, her daughter, and her brother-in-law went to Matthews' Pritchart Road home to retrieve their dog. The animal reportedly belonged to Rawson's estranged husband, who died last week. Matthews was a friend of his and took the dog in after his death.
What happened next is unclear.
Rawson's family says she stayed in the car while her brother-in-law, Rodney went to the front door and knocked. That's when Matthews allegedly opened the door and began firing a handgun.
Eugene Matthews' son says when Rawson, her daughter and brother in-law rammed through the gate and startled his father, is when Matthews fired in self defense.
"Before I could talk to my father, they went out rammed the gate and kicked his door in," explained Daren Matthews to FOX 13 News.
MCSO says one thing is clear at this point: One of the rounds entered through the front windshield where Rebecca Rawson sat, hitting her. She was transported to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Now, Eugene Matthews is behind bars with no bond, and charged with second degree murder.
Daren Matthews, meanwhile, tells FOX 13 News he is worried about his father, who is also a Korean War veteran.
"I don't want to see my father sitting in jail for something that could have been avoided," he said Wednesday afternoon. "I want them to know he is a wonderful person who fought for our country."
His connection to the military becomes clear when looking at his front yard. His desire to be left alone is also clear. No trespassing signs are everywhere; at least five are on the front gate to his home.
That did not deter Rebecca Rawson and two others from entering the property Tuesday night.
Daren said his dad was long-time friends with Rawon's ex-husband, Ed, who died last week. He said someone needed to take care of Ed's dog, named Bart, and Daren asked if his father could. He said Ed's brother gave him permission.
"For years... The dog has been at my house for years," Daren said. "Ed would drop him off, go fly his plane and visit his mother and that dog was pretty much family."
Now he just wants his father to come home.
"I know he never intended to harm anyone, but he was protecting his property and his home," he said.