One domestic disturbance call eventually led to Matthew Stoddard’s arrest on a charge of murder. Another led to his arrest on a sexual assault of a child charge.
The Texas Rangers are now involved in the investigation of a man who has a close relationship with a member of the Copperas Cove Police Department and is charged with a Harker Heights murder and a Copperas Cove sexual assault of a child.
According to an arrest warrant, Stoddard, 23, was in a sexual relationship with an juvenile girl.
The investigation was launched by Cove police after officers responded to a 911 call about a domestic dispute between Stoddard and his girlfriend on Sept. 21.
Police later identified Stoddard’s girlfriend as a juvenile.
The mother of Stoddard’s girlfriend reported the domestic incident, and said it happened at her home in Cove. While on scene, officers learned Stoddard had been in a relationship with the juvenile girl since February that year.
Stoddard turned himself in to police March 16, after he learned he was wanted in connection with the death of Angelica Santiago, who was his girlfriend at the time of her death. Santiago was found dead in her Harker Heights apartment July 10.
Stoddard told police he believed the juvenile girl was in her early 20s when they were dating, according to the affidavit for arrest. He was escorted off the property by police.
“(The juvenile girl) was scheduled for a forensic interview and admitted openly to the having on going (sic) sexual relationship with Stoddard,” the warrant said.
Stoddard is being held in the Coryell County Jail. His bond was originally set at $35,000, but the Bell County Sheriff’s Department placed a hold on Stoddard for a charge of bond forfeiture — murder. Bond was set at $150,000, which brings his total bond amount to $185,000.
Stoddard was arrested by the Texas Rangers. Coryell County District Attorney Dusty Boyd requested Texas Rangers assistance in the investigation because of “the nature of the investigation and close relationship of Stoddard to a CCPD employee.”
The Herald previously reported Stoddard is the son of a local police officer, who works for another department, not Harker Heights police.
Stoddard was released from the Bell County Jail on April 12, when Judge John Gauntt lowered his bond amount from $1 million to $150,000, according to Chuck Cox, a deputy with the Bell County Sheriff’s Department. The original bond amount was set by Justice of the Peace Bill Cooke.
When police first arrived at the Harker Heights apartment Santiago and Stoddard lived in together, “early assertions” were that the gunshot wound Santiago died from was self-inflicted, according to a news release.
Stoddard told police he was in the bathroom with Santiago on July 10, 2016, when she grabbed a gun and shot herself, according to an affidavit.
Further investigation by the Bell County district attorney’s office led officials to believe a murder occurred, police said. An autopsy report showed Santiago suffered two gunshot wounds, and the death was ruled a homicide.
Stoddard was questioned by Heights police immediately after Santiago was found, Heights police spokesman Sgt. Steve Miller said.
However, he was not the only witness, and he was released after being questioned while other people were brought in. Miller would not confirm whether there were other people at the apartment when the gun was fired, and couldn’t say how many people were questioned. However, he did confirm that “there were other people that were involved in the activity of the day.”
Miller also said the fact that Stoddard’s father is a police officer had no effect on the investigation.
“It has no bearing on it,” he said. “We pursued the truth, we found the truth, and we brought him in.