Appeals Court upholds Mathis murder conviction

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Court of Appeals has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of Tansy Fae-Arwen Mathis in the 2009 murder-for hire death of Michelle Kitterman.

Tansy Fae-Arwen Mathis G-T File Photo
Tansy Fae-Arwen Mathis G-T File Photo

On Thursday, Jan. 9, the court rejected Mathis’ arguments that in two instances the jury was given improper instructions. She was one of four people convicted in the stabbing death of Kitterman, 25, whose body was discovered on Stalder Road in the Pine Creek area, south of Tonasket. The victim, who had been stabbed with an ice pick, was pregnant at the time of her death. The manner of Kitterman’s death and the resulting trial shocked the county at the time.

In her appeal Mathis raised two arguments that the jury was given improper instructions, according to court documents. First, she claimed the jury was instructed that it must unanimously answer “no” to the special verdict form and, second, that the instructions on factors relied on by the State for the aggravated murder charge improperly permitted the jury to find one factor based on an accomplice’s conduct, not her own.

In the court’s opinion the first assignment of error was addressed in a Washington Supreme Court Decision, Guzman Nuñez in which it overruled two prior decisions and “found that the pattern jury instruction used in Mathis’ case correctly stated the law.” In the second argument the court agreed that there was a problem with the instruction, but “the error was harmless” and went on to explain why based on the case law.

Lacey Hirst-Pavek, David E. Richards and Brent L. Phillips were also convicted in the killing. Phillips pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. Richards was found guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.

Michelle Kitterman had lived in both Oroville and Tonasket. She was killed in 2010. G-T File Photo

Hirst-Pavek, from Tonasket, was alleged to have contacted Mathis in Spokane and hired her for $500 to kill Kitterman. Hirst-Pavek was convicted of first-degree murder and manslaughter. In June of 2012 she lost an appeal of her November 2010 conviction. In their ruling, the Court of Appeals agreed with the Okanogan County Prosecutor’s office that Hirst-Pavek “was consumed by her husband’s affair with Michelle Kitterman and Ms. Kitterman’s resultant pregnancy. Ms. Hirst-Pavek wanted Ms. Kitterman to terminate the pregnancy. Her animosity toward Ms. Kitterman is amply shown by her frequent disparaging comments to others, her deteriorating work performance…and her attempts to have Ms. Kitterman arrested…. Ultimately, Ms. Hirst-Pavek contacted and facilitated others to confront Ms. Kitterman, resulting in Ms. Kitterman’s homicide and the death of her unborn child.”

The Appellate Court’s opinion in the Mathis appeal was unpublished in the Washington Appellate Reports, but was filed for public record and can be found at Fae Mathis.