MADISON — After about an hour of deliberation on Thursday, a 12-person jury found 51-year-old Dale Matteson guilty of intentional child abuse resulting in death, a Class 1B felony.
The verdict came shortly after 1:40 p.m. in front of a packed courtroom, which included friends and family members of Matteson’s daughter.
“Emotionally, I think I’m like everybody else involved in this case. (The victim) was 17 when she killed herself,” Smith said. “I’m glad we had a trial, I’m glad the jury found him guilty and I’m glad that the law and the evidence was applied correctly.”
Judge Mark Johnson increased Matteson’s bond to 10% of $500,000. It had previously been set at 10% of $50,000.
Matteson’s 17-year-old daughter was found dead by suicide on Sept. 20, 2019, in the Sunset Plaza Mall parking lot. An autopsy determined that she had died from a Benadryl overdose.
Several witnesses who communicated with Matteson’s daughter in the years leading to her death testified this week that the victim blamed her suicidal ideations on her father’s alleged sexual abuse over a five-year span.
On July 17, 2019, Matteson asked his daughter for sex and also asked her if he could perform oral sex on her, according to testimony. He allegedly told her that father-daughter sex would strengthen their relationship.
That incident significantly contributed to the retraumatization of Matteson’s daughter, said Dr. Lisa Yosten, an emergency room physician at Faith Regional Health Services, and Dr. Connie Petersen, clinical director at Behavioral Health Specialists.
“The big thing is that those family members — each and every one of them — counselors, cops, family members — almost every person in that courtroom was deeply affected,” Smith said. “And that probably goes for the jurors as well. They had to sit through that and revisit all those traumas with all those people.”
Defense attorney Seth Morris rested his case early Thursday morning after calling upon two Norfolk police detectives late Wednesday.
Matteson is now awaiting sentencing on one count of child abuse resulting in death and one count of attempted incest, for which he pleaded guilty to in March.
Sentencing on each of the charges of attempted incest and intentional child abuse resulting in death are scheduled for Friday, May 21.
Matteson is facing 20 years to life in prison.
Smith told jurors before deliberation that evidence presented this week made it clear that the victim was suicidal because of sexual abuse at the hands of Matteson.
“It’s important to realize — and it’s in the evidence — that when the defendant did that stuff in July 2019 ... he knew fully well that approximately four years before that, that little girl had tried to kill herself because of similar misconduct,” Smith told the jury. “We don’t have to prove that he intended to kill her; we have to show that the acts he committed that resulted in her death were intentional.”
Smith repeatedly pointed to expert testimony that Matteson’s daughter placed blame on her father during therapy sessions.
He also alluded to the admissions to attempted incest that Matteson made to police investigators in July 2019.
Matteson had no regard for what his actions would do to his daughter, Smith said.
“He did those things because he wanted to have sex. He didn’t give a (darn) what happened to her afterwards,” he said.
Morris thanked the jurors for their service in his closing arguments. He told jurors that while what happened to Matteson’s daughter was devastating, suicidal individuals have a chance to overcome and persevere regardless of the trauma they endure.
“Her demeanor wasn’t frantic (on the day of her suicide). This was evident of a person who had a plan,” Morris said. “There’s no evidence that she was out of control of what she did with her own body.”
There’s a difference between correlation and causation, Morris said. Just because there is a correlation between two events doesn’t mean one caused the other.
The evidence, Morris said, showed that Matteson’s daughter had made 52 consecutive internet searches about how to end her life. She spent the last two days of her life figuring out how to end it, he said.
“The suicide notes are our only glimpse into the last thoughts of the victim,” Morris said. “She had the opportunity to blame someone if she wanted to, and she didn’t do that.”
Morris told jurors that the state had not established the necessary evidence to prove child abuse resulting in death, either intentionally or negligently.
“A verdict of not guilty doesn’t mean you support Mr. Matteson’s actions,” he said. “A verdict of not guilty means you are applying verdicts based on facts.”
After the guilty verdict was handed down, Matteson was remanded to the custody of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.
There was no indication given as to whether Matteson would be able to post his increased bond.
“I think everybody involved — witnesses, jurors, officers, rescue squad people — every one of them went through quite a bit in this case,” Smith said. “I’m proud of each one of them.”
A short version was originally posted at 2:04 p.m. April 15. It has been updated with a longer version as of 9:16 a.m. April 16.