Crime

He planned to kill before. His new target – a teen found dead in Mississippi, officials say

Matthew Moberg, 23, is accused in the May 23, 2017, kidnapping and killing of a 16-year-old boy whose body was found in Greene County.
Matthew Moberg, 23, is accused in the May 23, 2017, kidnapping and killing of a 16-year-old boy whose body was found in Greene County.

When Matthew Moberg — a man accused in the kidnapping and killing of a 16-year-old boy — arrived for court Tuesday, he had a shiner on his left eye and a few other scrapes and bruises.

His attorney said he was fine to go through with a hearing in his capital murder case despite his injuries, which came from a tussle with a jail detainee the day before.

Trouble seems to follow the 23-year-old Moberg, a Wilmer, Alabama, native who first made headlines when he and an accomplice devised a plan to kidnap his ex-girlfriend and kill her new boyfriend about four years ago.

In 2014, an Alabama judge sentenced Moberg to 20 years in prison on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping in the case involving Moberg's ex-girlfriend.

The judge suspended the majority of that sentence, and Alabama authorities thought they'd heard the last of Moberg for at least three years, the time he was supposed to be in prison.

But he got out of prison early, in February 2017.

Just three months later, Moberg is accused of capital murder in the kidnapping and killing of Semmes, Alabama, native Brian Jessie Parker.

Parker's decomposed body was found on an old logging trail off Mississippi 63 in rural Greene County on May 31, 2017. An autopsy to determine the cause of Parker's death is still ongoing.

In a hearing Tuesday in Circuit Court in Pascagoula, Mobile County Sheriff's Detective Matthew Peak testified about the multistate investigation that began in Alabama and ended in Mississippi after Parker's mother first reported him missing.

The hearing was held to determine what evidence a judge will allow at Moberg's capital murder trial, set for May in Greene County.

Matthew Moberg
Matthew Moberg

New information

Judge Dale Harkey presided over Tuesday's arguments regarding motions filed by Moberg's attorney, Allison Steiner, to keep certain evidence from going before a jury.

Steiner filed motions to keep some information from the jury, including photos of Parker's badly decomposed body, testimony from a jailhouse "snitch" and Moberg's previous "bad acts."

District Attorney Tony Lawrence called on witnesses to testify about the evidence, and new details about the case were made public for the first time.

The main testimony came from Peak. He headed up the investigation, which began as a missing persons case after Tina Parker called to report her son, Brian Parker, missing around 10 p.m. on May 23, 2017.

She told deputies she last saw her son, whom she calls Jessie, when Moberg picked him up the morning of his disappearance. That afternoon, she told investigators, Moberg returned her son's cellphone, but her son was nowhere in sight.

The deputy who took the initial call referred the information to Peak, who said his interest heightened when he learned Moberg was involved. Peak knew of Moberg's previous crimes involving his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend and immediately went to the Parkers' home to talk to his family.

A suspicious text

While Peak was there, he said, Moberg sent a suspicious text to Parker's mother that read: “'Hopefully, someone will be able to identify him and we can locate where he (Parker) is at.'”

Peak said the message was suspicious because no one knew at the time that Parker was already dead.

Brian Jessie Parker.JPG
Brian Parker was 16 when he was found dead in rural Greene County. Sun Herald file

Peak later met Moberg at a convenience store to discuss Parker's disappearance, and Moberg agreed to go back to the sheriff's department to talk further. He also provided a timeline of his activities.

The following day, Peak said, investigators went to Moberg's place of employment to verify he was at work the day of the disappearance, but Moberg took off running when he saw authorities.

He was picked up a short time later after he slipped into an elderly woman's home in Alabama.

Moberg's timeline soon fell apart, according to Peak, when deputies were able to confirm inconsistencies.

When Moberg took off running, deputies did not search his truck but saw a receipt on one of the seats. They were able to use a camera to capture a clear image of the receipt from a Dollar General store in Lucedale dated on the day Parker disappeared. And they later gathered video footage of the pair in the store buying drinks.

Testimony also revealed detectives found two GPS tracking devices in Moberg's truck. They were installed by the person who sold him the pickup in case Moberg failed to make payments.

Both of the GPS devices were sent out for analysis to trace the pickup's travels.

Moberg's attorney questioned whether authorities had a valid warrant to search the pickup when they took the photo of the receipt. Detectives said they never entered Moberg's vehicle until a search warrant was in hand to do so.

A snitch

Other evidence that came out in the hearing includes information about a former cellmate who told deputies Moberg talked about how he and Parker had spent the entire day Parker went missing smoking a high-grade form of meth known as Ice.

During Tuesday's testimony, Harkey questioned whether the defense attorney was trying to gather more evidence at the hearing instead of arguing the points to keep evidence from going before a jury.

At the end of the day Tuesday, Harkey said he would review the testimony and exhibits to determine whether to suppress any information.

Moberg remains jailed without bond pending trial. Prosecutors are not seeking a death sentence in the capital murder case, though Moberg is facing a maximum penalty of life without parole if he's convicted.

Margaret Baker; 228-896-0538; @margar45
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