Thompson pleads guilty in murder of wife; jury trial ends early

May 7—GOSHEN — Bright and early Tuesday morning, after jury selection and opening arguments for his jury trial beginning Monday, Matthew R. Thompson, 36, pleaded guilty to the murder of his wife, Ciarra Thompson.

Elkhart police were called to the couple's home in the 1400 block of Cone Street in Elkhart at 7:16 p.m. Aug. 19, 2023, where Matthew had reported that his wife was unconscious, not breathing, and bloodied. According to court documents, Matthew reported that he'd found Ciarra on the kitchen floor and she would not wake up.

During opening arguments on Monday, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kathleen Claeys told the jury that Ciarra's mother had been trying to get a hold of her all day on Aug. 19, and every time, Matthew would answer and give an excuse as to why Ciarra couldn't talk. Finally, her mother told him to get Ciarra on the phone or she'd get law enforcement involved.

"Ciarra's story doesn't start with the 911 call," Claeys said, claiming the story starts much earlier, at the beginning of her and Matthew's relationship almost a decade prior, and included substance abuse and domestic abuse.

Claeys said that Ciarra was often the primary breadwinner for their home and whenever Matthew would lose a job at a company they both worked for, he'd demand she also leave that job.

Claeys said in August 2023, they were working at Medix Specialty Vehicles together and Matthew got fired, but this time, Ciarra refused to leave the job.

A week before Ciarra's death, Ciarra contacted her mother and told her she'd asked Matthew for a divorce. When her mom talked to both of them, they said they agreed and planned to separate in November.

But Ciarra had entered into a friendship and blossoming romance with a man named Austin Miller at work, and she told Matthew about it. Claeys claimed at that point, Matthew felt a loss of control.

"We know that domestic violence whether it's financial, physical, mental, it's all about control," Claeys said. "It's all about one partner wanting to dominate the other partner."

On Aug. 17, Matthew called his ex-wife, whom he hadn't spoken to in a long while, and talked to her about the struggles he was facing with his new wife and the failure of their marriage. Finding the conversation unusual, she recorded it. He also showed up at the home of another friend, whom he hadn't spoken to for nearly 10 years, and the woman told police that she also found it unusual. The conversation was similar, but on Aug. 18, he spent much of the day with the woman, while Ciarra was at work.

He also spoke with Ciarra's mother that day, who told him the divorce was for the best.

After Ciarra got off work on Aug. 18, they ran some errands together before returning home. Via text message, Ciarra told Miller that Matthew wouldn't stop crying and addressed her stresses to him. Matthew noticed and told her not to talk to him, but Ciarra refused.

"She was done with the marriage, and he had lost control," Claeys said. "He made very conscious and deliberate choices when he attacked Ciarra."

It's at that point that Claeys said the violence began.

Ciarra was already deceased when officers arrived on the scene the following day, and the Elkhart County Homicide Unit was called in. In the charging affidavit, officers stated they found blood throughout the living room and kitchen of the home, with a large amount saturating the living room couch, and noted that some of it had been cleaned up. Detectives also noted that Ciarra had open wounds on her head and neck.

Matthew told detectives that he'd cleaned up some of the blood, but denied causing the harm to Ciarra. He did eventually admit, according to investigators, that on Friday, Aug. 18, he'd punched Ciarra numerous times on her head and shook her. After his last punch, Ciarra struck her head on the kitchen counter before falling down on the kitchen floor. Matthew told police that Ciarra had been in the same place she'd fallen when he called police the following evening.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 23.

Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at or at 574-538-2065.