WESTMINSTER, Colo. A man has been formally charged with first degree murder after a body showing “obvious trauma” and a gunshot wound to the head was found in a Westminster field on August 13.
Christopher John Matthews, 20, now faces charges of first degree murder after deliberation, first degree murder and robbery, according to the 17th Judicial District Attorneys Office. On Friday, he was informed of the charges against him.
The man who was found dead on the ground has been identified as Tanner Andre Banderet, 20.
At approximately 6:20 p.m. on August 13, Westminster Police Department officers were called to 84th W. Avenue and Shaw Boulevard after a body was spotted in a nearby field, according to an arrest affidavit for Matthews . When officers arrived, they found Banderet dead.
According to an affidavit, the man had “obvious trauma” including bruising on his face and bloody clothes.
Investigators determined the death to be homicide. An autopsy confirmed that Banderet had been shot behind the left ear. The pathologist believed Banderet was killed late on the evening of August 12 or early in the morning of August 13.
According to an affidavit, he called the Broomfield Police Department on August 12 after Banderet and his brother were involved in a fight. His brother later told Westminster Police they had argued over his ban on visiting his apartment complex, where Banderet had “caused problems in the past”, according to the affidavit.
As Banderet was leaving the property, his brother overheard him asking a friend over the phone to send him an Uber or Lyft since he did not own a vehicle, according to an affidavit. The brother said the last time he heard from his brother was through a Snapchat he sang in and “obviously drunk,” according to an affidavit.
When authorities contacted Banderet’s parents, they said they last spoke with him by phone on August 10, according to an affidavit.
The Westminster Police Department ordered a search warrant for Banderet’s phone records and were able to see the latest cell phone activity in the 116 Avenue and Pecos Street area. He stopped reporting cell tower data at 2:13 a.m. on August 13. There were 100 actions over the phone between that date and 6 p.m. the night before, according to an affidavit.
His body was found several kilometers from the cell phone tower.
Detectives interviewed a friend of Banderet’s who said he would drive Banderet so he could sell drugs. In return, Banderet paid his rent. The man was confirmed to be with his family when Benderet went missing, and told detectives he was unsure who killed him. However, he noted that he believed Benderet owed people money and used a phone app called Cash App to exchange money for drugs, according to an affidavit.
When police found his body, he was missing his backpack and fanny pack which still contained drugs and money, according to an affidavit. He did not have a cell phone or any identifying items with him.
Authorities began to investigate a man who was a known associate of Benderet and contacted him at his apartment. The man said he last saw Benderet around August 12, when he was picked up from the apartment by a stranger driving a black Cadillac car to what the man thought was another matter. Shortly after, Benderet called the associate, who said all he could hear was Benderet saying “police,” according to an affidavit.
Benderet had left his backpack in his partner’s apartment, the man told police. When he spoke to the police, he was wearing Benderet’s hat and also had his t-shirt on, according to an affidavit.
On August 25, as detectives examined the tapes of Benderet’s cell phone, they saw that he had called at around 10:19 p.m. on August 12 to a number registered as belonging to Christopher Matthews.
Detectives spoke with Matthews on the phone and he explained that he had known Benderet for several years and bought him drugs, but did not consider him a friend. He said it had been about a month since he saw Benderet when Benderet called to ask for a ride after being kicked out of an apartment. He said Benderet requested another ride later, but Matthews refused and had not heard from him since, according to an affidavit.
Detectives said they found multiple connections between the two men’s phones on the evening of August 12, but Matthews said he passed out that night and loaned his car a 2011 Cadillac CTS sedan and phone. black men to a friend, aged 19, who had recently been evicted from her home, according to an affidavit.
The police could not find anyone matching his name.
When police were able to contact Matthews next, on the afternoon of August 27, he said he was in Las Vegas with his family and wouldn’t be back for a month.
That same afternoon, in Westminster, Matthews’ brother was taken into police custody on an active felony warrant. During an interview, the brother said he heard Matthews say he was scared because he was “too deep” and knew the police were looking for him. He said he had “really hurt someone” and was trying to escape the police by fleeing to Arizona in his car, according to an affidavit.
The Cadillac registered with Matthews has been observed via license plate readers in Arizona around Kingman, Holbrook and Seligman.
In early September, detectives spoke to Matthews’ girlfriend, who said she had been with him for most of the day on August 12.
That night he was supposed to leave for a night shift at FedEx, but his girlfriend woke up at 3:30 a.m. to find he hadn’t gone to work. He drove to his residence and was “unusually calm” and “appeared in a bad mood,” the woman told police, according to an affidavit. She said she thought Matthews had made deals. She also said she noticed blood on the hat he was wearing.
When asked why he didn’t go to work, Matthews explained to him that he had picked up someone from an apartment complex and when they left the man shot himself in the head, according to an affidavit. He later confessed to her that he had shot Benderet and put his body in a field. He said he was concerned about leaving tire marks on the soft ground, according to an affidavit.
The Cadillac tire tracks matched the tracks found in the field near Benderet’s body.
The woman told police Matthews had a history of cocaine addiction and generally had guns in his possession. He had disposed of the gun after the shooting, he told the woman, according to an affidavit.
The woman later spotted when she thought there was dried blood in the front passenger seat of Matthews’ Cadillac.
Then Matthews cleaned the car at his mother’s house.
When asked why the woman did not provide this information, she said she feared she would be killed, according to an affidavit.
As a result of this investigation, authorities were able to identify Matthews as a suspect and he was taken into custody on September 4.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 6 in Adams County District Court.
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