Victim: Brittni Pater, 15
Murderers’ ages: 16 & 17
Death: February 5, 2000
MAGNOLIA (Arkansas) (AP) — On the shelf above her computer, in the bedroom she left just before her death, Brittni Pater left a Bible open to Psalm 25.
The chapter asks God not to remember the rebellious ways of youth, but rather to show mercy and kindness, the Rev. Brad Justice told hundreds gathered Wednesday for the 15-year-old’s funeral.
“The worst this world can do is kill us, but God will take care of us,” Justice said.
The sanctuary at Immanuel Baptist Church was filled with several hundred people, many of them teen-agers, and in an adjoining fellowship hall, another hundred-plus mourners watched Brittni’s funeral on two large-screen television sets.
Some teen-agers passed facial tissues among themselves to wipe away tears, while others brushed back tears with their hands, mourning the death of the girl whose body was found Saturday near a shallow grave that authorities say was dug before she was killed.
Brittni, who was pregnant, was bludgeoned to death, authorities say, after leaving a note to her parents saying something had happened and she had to take care of it. She then snuck out of the house, never to return, Columbia County Sheriff Wayne Tompkins said.
Her body was found a short while after she was picked up by her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Tompkins said. Two fellow students at Magnolia High School have been charged with capital murder in connection with her death.
Two teenaged boys, Matthew Ryan Elliott, 16, and William Davis, 17, plotted for at least three weeks to kill 15-year old Brittni Pater, who was 12 weeks pregnant. They dug a grave for her on February 4, 2000 and picked up some large sheets of plastic from the Kroger grocery store where Davis worked.
They bludgeoned her repeatedly with a long, heavy metal bar wrapped with heavy tape around one end, as though the person who wielded it wanted to make sure he was able to get a good grip, investigators said. Then they ran her down with their car and dumped her battered body in an old gravel pit.
Elliott immediately bragged to his friends about how he had killed Brittni.
Several students have told investigators that they heard Matthew discussing plans to kill Brittni, the sheriff said. And authorities believe that Brittni knew she was going to die. At some point before her death, Matthew told Brittni they weren’t headed to an abortion clinic, the county sheriff said. “We think he told her he was going to kill her.”
Elliott and Davis were both charged with capital murder after giving statements in which Brittni’s pregnancy was cited as the reason she was killed. On November 2, 2000, a Columbia County jury found Davis guilty of capital murder for his part in the fatal beating.
References: Cathy Frye. “Girl, 15, Left Note Before Death.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 9, 2000; “Arkansas Teen Killed Because She Was Pregnant.” Steven Ertelt’s Pro-Life Infonet at http://www.prolifeinfo.org/infonet.html, February 10, 2000; Chuck Plunkett. “Jury Decides Help Given to Kill Girl Was Murder.” The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 4, 2000.
Becky Bell, special to magnoliareporter.comFeb 26, 2020 Updated Mar 2, 2020
Vinita Pater expressed on Wednesday a mother’s anguish over precious moments stolen because her only child was murdered.
“I don’t get to get her hugs anymore. I don’t have the grandchildren and I never will,” Pater said at the Columbia County Justice and Detention Facility.
Her testimony came on the second day of a re-sentencing trial for Matthew Ryan Elliott, now 36 but who was 16 when he was found guilty of capital murder in the death of his girlfriend, Brittni Pater, 15.
“I will never get to see her grow into a beautiful woman. I will never get to see her try on wedding dresses. I will never get to go to a graduation,” Vinita Pater said.
Vinita Pater and her husband, Thomas “Tommy” Pater, were the parents of Brittni Pater. The girl was pregnant when she died in February 2000.
Elliott received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. His guilt is not an issue in the current trial. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 2012 Arkansas case that mandatory life without parole sentences for defendants under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. New sentencing trials were ordered for Elliott and others who were under the age of 18 when they committed murder.
In Elliott’s situation, this means jurors will consider a sentence of between 10 and 40 years in prison, or a sentence of life. In either case, Elliott could be freed from prison in a relatively short period of time given the fact that he’s already served 20 years.
Elliott bludgeoned Pater multiple times with an aluminum bar at an oil well site in the Village community early Saturday, February 5, 2000. Elliott then ran over her body with a car.
Both of Brittni Pater’s parents were in court Wednesday to testify about how their lives have been impacted with the loss of their daughter.
After court proceedings Wednesday, Vinita Pater said she did not think Elliott should receive a shorter sentence for killing her daughter.
The night Brittni went missing from her home near Lake Columbia, her father started looking for her at all her friend’s houses. He remembered being relieved when he heard she was with Elliott. Thomas Pater said he knew of Elliott because he was a frequent guest at their house and liked to come over and eat steaks he had grilled.
“I thought at least if she’s with Matt she will be alright. I guess I was wrong,” Thomas Pater said.
Thomas Pater said his daughter was his everything.
“She was my life, she was good. She took care of me and her mother,” he said.
A co-defendant who was also convicted of capital murder in the case, William Edward Davis, 17 at the time of the murder, was released in 2018.
Davis was called to the stand Wednesday and said he “felt rehabilitated” after the 18 1/2 years he served in prison. He also said he felt “remorseful to the family.”
Davis knew about the murder preparations. He helped Elliott dig a grave near Davis’ home the day before the murder. He gave Elliott plastic bags to use to protect his car from blood spill and told him about an aluminum pipe he could use as a murder weapon.
But, he also testified he never thought Elliott would actually go through with the crime.
Davis said he had tried several things to convince Elliott, with whom he had been best friends since the first grade, not to go through with the crime. Davis said he had asked his brother-in-law, Bo Burge, to go with him to a deer camp near the murder scene on the night of the killing to try to distract his friend. His aim was to get Elliott focused on playing drinking games.
He also said he refused to go with Elliott when Elliott told him they should go together to kill Brittni.
Burge wasn’t involved in the murder conspiracy.
“I told him, ‘I’m drunk, I’m having fun and I ain’t going nowhere,’” Davis said.
“He said, ‘OK, I’ll do it by myself.’”
When Elliott told Davis that he’d had sex with Brittni, he said he assumed his friend was lying. He said he did begin to question if his friend was talking about more than just dumping his girlfriend when he used the term, “get rid of her.”
Although Davis described Elliott as an outgoing, friendly person who usually socialized with others, he noticed a profound difference in the way Elliott acted on the cold night when he came back to the camp site after being gone for what could have been more than an hour.
“It was cold but I just remembered having the chills when I saw the blood on his face,” Davis said.
Although Davis was angry about his sentence in the beginning, Davis said he had come to understand why he was in the wrong. He said he should have taken more responsibility to tell someone what was going on.
Davis’ murder trial was held first and Elliott testified against him. Davis said Wednesday he understood why his friend testified because at the time Elliott was only 16, and Elliott was still facing a possible death sentence at his trial.
“His way out was to testify against me,” Davis said.
Dr. Charles Kokes of Little Rock, a forensic pathology specialist at the Arkansas Crime Lab, was in court Wednesday to lend expert testimony regarding Brittni Pater’s cause of death. Kokes has been practicing for 34 years and has performed thousands of autopsies.
Kokes said Brittni’s cause of death was blunt force trauma and he listed it as a homicide on his report. During his exam he noted 17 lacerations to the face and the scalp. He testified that the aluminum bar put into evidence earlier by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Phillips could be used to make these injuries when he was shown the bar by Phillips.
“Yes, an instrument of this size, manner and type is consistent with the lacerations and skull fractures.”
Although the victim’s skull was fractured in a multiple pattern like a jigsaw puzzle, skull fractures were not the cause of death. Kokes said a brain hemorrhage is what ultimately killed the victim.
“There would have been substantial force to cause that kind of trauma,” he said.
The state rested its case on Wednesday. The defense begins its case on Thursday.