Crime

He beheaded two women in Tacoma. ‘They mattered,’ judge tells killer at sentencing

Man accused of decapitating 2 women, torching house to cover up crime

Matthew Leupold was charged with 2 counts of first-degree aggravated murder and first degree arson and held without bail Jan. 11, 2017 while sister Lindsey was charged with first degree rendering criminal assistance with $500,000 bail.
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Matthew Leupold was charged with 2 counts of first-degree aggravated murder and first degree arson and held without bail Jan. 11, 2017 while sister Lindsey was charged with first degree rendering criminal assistance with $500,000 bail.

The women Matthew Ryan Leupold decapitated deserved to have goals and dreams, a Pierce County judge told him Thursday.

The challenges they faced in life didn’t change that.

“In other words, they mattered,” Superior Court Judge Jack Nevin said.

Nevin thensentenced Leupold to 60 years, 11 months in prison for the deaths of Theresa Greenhalgh and Mary Buras.

That was about 10 years more than the defense and prosecution recommended as part of negotiations. Nevin said it’s only the second time he remembers going against such a recommendation in seven years.

“Justice requires this sentence,” the judge said.

Leupold, 34, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder Tuesday in the midst of a trial that started a month ago. He had faced charges of aggravated first-degree murder, which would have meant life without parole if jurors convicted him.

Leupold killed the women Jan. 4, 2017, at a home where 31-year-old Greenhalgh and 22-year-old Buras had been living in the 3700 block of South Yakima Avenue in Tacoma.

In a fit of rage, he punched Greenhalgh, hit her in the head with a hammer and used a knife and hatchet to behead her as she fought for her life.

Then he turned the hammer and knife and Buras so that she couldn’t turn him into police.

Prosecutors said at trial that Leupold’s sister and 15-year-old nephew were at the house at the time and that everyone involved in the case was a heavy drug user.

Leupold went to his Olympia-area home after the killings. He later returned to the Tacoma house with the 15-year-old boy and set the place ablaze, prosecutors said.

Court records say the teen took investigators to a place where he and Leupold had left evidence, including a backpack with one of the victim’s heads. The boy was convicted of first-degree arson in the case and received a sentence of about two years in custody.

“Over the course of my life I’ve caused a lot of disaster,” Leupold told Nevin before he was sentenced. “... I’m not proud of any of it.”

He said the fact he was high at the time of the killings is no excuse.

“What I did was wrong,” he said. “They did not deserve to die. They didn’t deserve it at all.”

Buras’ mother told the court that she had wanted a little girl with red hair and blue eyes and that she got her wish when Buras was born.

“She could push our buttons, but she also had the biggest heart,” Sherry Buras said. “... I don’t know what I’m going to do without my little girl.”

Buras told the judge she punished her daughter for regularly coming home late from school as a child. She learned years later that she’d been late because she was spending time at a friend’s home to prevent the friend from being abused.

Greenhalgh’s stepfather told Nevin that Greenhalgh was spunky as a child and kept her parents on their toes.

“Theresa did not deserve such a tragic end to her life,” Warren Clements said. “... This is not how someone is supposed to leave this earth.”

He told The News Tribune outside court that Greenhalgh grew up in Enumclaw and that he’d helped raise her since she was 3.

Loved ones remembered her as a caring person, who religiously curled her long blond hair before going out.

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Theresa Greenhalgh, circa 2013 Courtesy photo Warren Clements

Clements said Greenhalgh was two credits away from a degree at Tacoma Community College that would have allowed her to start nursing school. Her struggles with drugs sidetracked that, Clements said.

“There were things that we couldn’t help her with,” he said. “She was a good heart, a good soul.”

Greenhalgh is survived by three sons, loved ones said, ages 11, 4 and 2.

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