A judge ruled Friday a Hays man could be bound over for arraignment on seven charges filed against him, but found insufficient evidence to prosecute him for burglary and witness intimidation.
In three successive preliminary hearings Friday morning, Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees offered his evidence against Matthew Markley for aggravated arson, criminal threat, violation of protective order, possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana, criminal use of a weapon, aggravated burglary, aggravated intimidation of a witness and a second charge of violation of protective order.
Magistrate Judge Brendon Boone ruled there was not enough evidence to support the aggravated burglary and aggravated intimidation of a witness charges — both felonies — after the victim’s testimony differed from what she had told police after an Oct. 24 incident in which Markley allegedly set off a large firecracker at the door to her apartment building.
Hays Police officers Nathan Elkins and Austin Savage testified Nicola Pfeifer told them about two weeks prior to the firecracker incident, Markley, her boyfriend of three years, had broken into her basement apartment through a window to talk to her.
Elkins, who questioned Pfeifer the day after the firecracker incident, said Pfeifer told him because there is a no contact order between her and Markley, she tried to leave the apartment by the front door, but Markley blocked her way, and she left via a back door.
Pfeifer and Markley had been arrested on drug charges in November of 2017. Pfeifer pled to the charges and was to testify against Markley at his trial for possession of methamphetamine committed while in possession of a firearm.
However, on the stand Friday, Pfeifer said the broken window and Markley entering her apartment were two separate incidents. During her testimony in two of Monday’s preliminary hearings, she often stammered and said the night of the firecracker incident was emotional and she couldn’t remember which officers she had talked to.
In the hearing on the burglary and intimidation charges, Pfeifer told Drees Markely didn’t break the window. The frame was already bent, she said, and he never entered the apartment through the window.
“He was outside the window. He was talking to me through the window,” she said.
She said Markley did come to the front door at another time to talk to her. She said she eventually let him in and they got into an argument. She said at neither incident did she feel threatened by Markley.
Drees asked her a series of questions about what she recalled telling officers during the investigation of the firecracker incident.
“Do you remember telling an officer problems started when he found out you were a witness?” Drees asked.
“I feel like that was pushed on me,” she said.
“Do you remember telling officers he was trying to stop you from testifying?” Drees then asked.
“I did not state that,” she said.
In the first hearing on the charges of aggravated arson, criminal threat and violation of protective oder, Drees had Savage read into the record a series of texts between Pfeifer and Markley that occurred prior to the Oct. 24 firecracker incident. Savage had taken pictures of the texts on her phone.
In those texts, Pfeifer told Markley several times to leave her alone. Two of the texts attributed to Markley, said “see you in court” and “watch your back.”
But Pfiefer testified those messages didn’t bother her.
“Never once did I fear for my life with this man,” she said.
David Bernasconi, property manager for Pfeifer’s apartment building, testified that he repaired the window to Pfeifer’s apartment. Glass was on the ground and the frame was twisted, as if pulled from the outside, he said. Defense attorney Don Anderson asked if the glass on the ground indicated it was broken from the inside. Bernasconi said it could.
The arson charge alleges Markley set off a large firecracker at an exterior storm door that leads to Pfeifer’s basement apartment. Pfeifer testified she was home with her young children on Oct. 24 when there was a loud boom and smoke started coming through her door.
The glass storm door had been shattered and part of the door trim blown off. The door to her apartment was not damaged. Hays Police Detective Jeff Ridgway testified debris of a firework about three to four times the size of a Black Cat was found at the scene.
HPD received a warrant to search vehicles registered to Markley and his residence. Ridgway testified firecrackers similar to the debris at the scene were found in one of his vehicles. During the search, police also discovered what appeared to be marijuana in the garage and drug paraphernalia in his bedroom with residue of what was believed to be methamphetamine. Field tests were performed on both substances. A .22 caliber rifle was found in one of the vehicles. Search warrants were also obtained to seize those items.
Anderson questioned investigating officers about the scope of the first warrant and the timing of when the drugs and paraphernalia were found.