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Canton man faces more than a decade in prison for ramming vehicle containing wife, children and mother-in-law

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CANTON — The St. Lawrence County corrections officer who ran his family off the road during a domestic dispute in October pleaded guilty to a felony count of second-degree assault Wednesday morning in St. Lawrence County Court .

Douglas A. Matthews Jr., 33, of 324 Minor Street Road, will spend 10½ years in prison as a part of a plea deal where he admitted he intended to cause serious injury to his wife and mother-in-law and that he knew he was also endangering the lives of his two sons when he rammed their vehicle on Oct. 4 on state Route 310 in the town of Canton.

Mr. Matthews told County Judge Jerome J. Richards that he was aware his actions could have killed his wife and mother-in-law.

A St. Lawrence County grand jury indicted Mr. Matthews on four counts of second-degree attempted murder, two counts of second-degree assault and one count of second-degree criminal mischief, all felonies. He also was indicted on two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, one count of fourth-degree criminal mischief and one count of second-degree reckless endangerment, all misdemeanors. All charges were satisfied by the plea.

Mr. Matthews was accused of driving alongside and then repeatedly ramming a car driven by his mother-in-law, Susan M. Latimer, then 65, causing it to go off the road and overturn in a cornfield on Route 310 about a mile south of County Route 24. In the car with Ms. Latimer were Matthews’s wife, Jenelle M., then 33, and their two sons, Owen, then 5, and Gavin, then 9.

The incident occurred during a domestic dispute involving Mr. Matthews and his wife that started at his residence.

The plea bargain agreement also calls for Matthews to be ordered to make restitution of at least $18,000 for the vehicle driven by his mother-in-law as well as pay the cost of counseling services for family members.

A motion seeking to have District Attorney Mary E. Rain removed as prosecutor in the case filed on behalf of Mr. Matthews by his attorney, Richard V. Manning, was withdrawn.

Judge Richards sent Mr. Matthews, a former corrections officer at the St. Lawrence County Jail, Canton, back to the Franklin County jail with no bail. Mr. Matthews was placed on unpaid leave from his job after his arrest and was fired on Nov. 8.

In addition to prison and restitution, Judge Richards said an 18½-year order of protection will be issued in favor of Mr. Matthews’s family.

Sentencing is set for Oct. 14.

Ms. Latimer, the only person injured seriously in the crash, was flown by a LifeNet helicopter to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt.

She was released from the hospital the afternoon following the crash.

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