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A Tennessee man has been accused of fatally beating his 14-year-old brother with Asperger's to death while his mother allegedly walked away without stopping the abuse.
David Matheny, 33, and his 52-year-old mother, Rebecca Greenwood, are facing charges of criminal homicide, aggravated child abuse, and evidence tampering after Nashville Police arrived at the home to find 14-year-old Sayeed Neilson dead from “assault-related trauma,” according to a statement from police.
Greenwood called 911 on Oct. 23 around 11:50 a.m. to report that her 14-year-old son appeared to be deceased.
Greenwood and Matheny initially told police that Neilson had fallen in the shower the day before and had hit his head. They claimed to have helped the teen to his feet, dried him off, and put him to bed.
“Greenwood told officers that she and Matheny checked on him several times before going to a local bar for drinks,” police said.
The next morning, they told investigators they went to the grocery store to buy cleaning supplies, cleaned the house, and then checked on Neilson in his bedroom and found him unresponsive.
Detectives were suspicious of the story, however, after determining that the injuries Neilson suffered did not appear to come from a fall. During further questioning, police said Greenwood admitted she saw Matheny punch and kick his brother in the head. She allegedly told police she asked him to stop but then walked away “without ensuring that he did stop.”
“I just wanted to know why? Why didn’t you protect him? Why didn’t you call someone?” Greenwood’s sister, Rebecca Duncan, later told KXAN of the allegations against her sister. “That’s your baby. You should always protect your child. I know it’s both her kids, but Sayeed was a baby, only 14 compared to his older brother, who is 33.”
Police said Matheny admitted to having an altercation with his half-brother but denied causing him any serious injury.
Detectives believe the pair purchased the cleaning supplies on the morning of Oct. 23 in an attempt to destroy or limit evidence.
Those who knew the family described Matheny as a violent man with a history of abuse.
Neighbor Kevin Davis told local station WTVF he had seen Matheny kick the family’s dog. When Neilson told him not to hurt the dog, Davis said he “went off” on the boy.
Davis also said he had reached out to Greenwood to see if she needed help, but she told him she had spoken with Matheny and the abuse was going to stop.
Duncan described Matheny to KXAN as a “narcissistic bully” whose own mother was afraid of him.
“(He is) a domineering kind of personality that always has to have his way, always has to be right, always has to be in control,” she said.
She told WTVF that she “practically raised” Neilson because his mother had “mental health issues” that made it difficult for her to care for him. But, over the last six months, she said Greenwood “kind of pushed me out.”
Duncan is now questioning her sister’s activities the day Neilson died.
“I mean my sister didn’t even stop this. She just went out for drinks,” she said. “Who does that?”
Duncan described her nephew as a “sweetheart” who had Asperger’s Syndrome and was on the autism spectrum but loved his family’s dog, "Star Wars," and school.
On Halloween — Neilson’s favorite holiday — the community gathered to release black, orange, and blue balloons in his honor and remember a life that had been cut too short, according to WKRN.
“I can’t tell you how many people we’ve heard stories about what they knew after the fact and they didn’t say anything. That’s not right,” his cousin Kayla Wood told the station. “He had his whole life ahead of him.”
Neilson’s father, Don Neilson, told the station that he did not know his son was being abused in the home.
Duncan said her mother also lived in the home and had also been abused by Matheny.
“It was like a reign of terror here at this house, apparently from what I’m finding out now,” she told WTVF.
Greenwood and Matheny are currently being held without bond.
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