Donald Matzke gets life, with possible parole, for murder of Tim Miller

Audrey Gomez

Donald Arthur Matzke of Sweet Home was sentenced on May 20 to life in prison with a possibility of parole in 25 years for the murder of Tim Miller of Sweet Home.

Matzke, 44, was found guilty of murder, abuse of a corpse, second-degree theft, and tampering with evidence. He will serve the 15-month sentence for abuse of a corpse concurrently with the life sentence, though prosecuting attorney Coleen Cerda requested that the sentences be consecutive.

Matzke was arrested on May 7, 2014 after Miller’s body was found face down in a shallow pond at the Rockin’ Red Ranch, located at 25491 Crescent Hill Road.

Jason Miller reported his father missing to the Sheriff’s Office on May 6, 2014.

Sheriff Bruce Riley said at the time that Matzke and Miller, 56, had been drinking alcohol together at the Rockin’ Red Ranch on the night of May 1. Riley said Matzke told detectives that he and Miller began to argue, at which time Matzke stabbed Miller several times, killing him. Matzke told detectives he tried to conceal the body by disposing of it in the pond and weighing it down with rocks.

During last week’s sentencing, Cerda addressed Judge David Delsman before Jason Miller, son of the victim, read a statement at the sentence hearing in Linn County Court.

She asked that if Matzke read a statement that he would not address Miller’s family because they are not allowed to address him.

“He died alone, he died in pain, he died fighting for his life,” Jason Miller said. And he and his family didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, he added.

(It will) “be in our nightmares for the rest of our lives,” Miller said. “We live with the consequence of someone else’s choice and now this is our life sentence.”

Matzke did not a read a statement and was silent throughout the hearing.

Defense attorney John Rich said there should have been better security measures taken for the hearing.

Rich said he was threatened in the hall by one of Miller’s friends or family members who pretended to reach behind his back as if to grab a gun, and then joked “Oh, I have a bad back.”

If there was an upside to Matzke’s life sentence, Rich said, it was that it probably saved Matzke’s life. Matzke was drinking to the point where alcohol was probably going to kill him, he added.

Janice Urben, who owns the ranch, said Miller was “a good friend” whom she had known for 25 years and who once lived on the property. She was away on a camping trip when Miller disappeared.

When she returned, she said she and Jason Miller searched the 92-acre property on the morning of May 7, and discovered Tim Miller’s body.

Matzke was ordered to pay $1,340 to Miller’s family for funeral costs, and $100, which he took from Tim Miller’s wallet, to Jason Miller.