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Man charged in Lithia slaying had violent past in Michigan

A former girlfriend says she tried to warn authorities and others that Matthew Robertson Terry posed a continuing threat.
Matthew Terry, charged in the Saturday night death of a woman in Lithia, served time in the Michigan Department of Corrections after being convicted of assault with intent to inflict great bodily harm in 2017. His former girlfriend tried to convince the parole board that he posed a continuing threat.
Matthew Terry, charged in the Saturday night death of a woman in Lithia, served time in the Michigan Department of Corrections after being convicted of assault with intent to inflict great bodily harm in 2017. His former girlfriend tried to convince the parole board that he posed a continuing threat. [ Michigan Department of Corrections ]
Published May 29|Updated May 29

When the call came Saturday night, Michelle Rogers was at her mom’s house in Michigan with her two school-age sons.

She knew the number. Knew something was wrong.

She stepped outside with her cell so the boys wouldn’t see her react.

“He did what?”

She started to panic. Couldn’t breathe.

She feared this was going to happen, but still couldn’t believe it.

Her former boyfriend, the father of her youngest son, had just been arrested for murder in the Tampa area.

Related: ‘Horrific scene’: Hillsborough deputies charge man in Lithia murder

News reports said he had gotten into an argument with a woman at a Valrico bar, then killed her —inflicting “severe upper body trauma.”

Hillsborough County deputies described the scene as “horrific.”

“I tried to warn her,” Rogers said Sunday. “I tried to warn everyone, but no one would listen. This didn’t have to happen.”

Five years earlier, Matthew Robertson Terry, 47, had started fighting with Rogers after getting drunk on St. Patrick’s Day. He stabbed her in the neck seven times in their Lansing, Michigan, home, beat her head against the floor, broke her nose and a molar, and bit her face.

She said she still doesn’t know how she wriggled away and screamed loud enough for neighbors to call 911.

She spent five days in intensive care.

Lawyers got his attempted murder charge dropped to “attempt to inflict great bodily harm.”

According to Michigan Department of Corrections records, he was sentenced in December 2017 and was “discharged” from the prison system on Dec. 29, 2021. Rogers said he served three years in prison and one on parole.

She begged the parole board not to let him out. He’s “a very sick individual who should not roam in society,” she wrote. “Mr. Terry is dangerous and will hurt another person, it’s simply a matter of time. Except the next time, that person might not be as lucky as I was.”

Rogers was so scared she moved to another state.

A year later, Terry was off parole and moved to Florida, Rogers said, to be with a woman he had once dated in Michigan.

“I kept telling her, ‘Please, don’t let this happen to you or your kids,’” said Rogers, 41. “But she wouldn’t believe me.”

Hillsborough deputies haven’t released the name of the woman found at the murder scene. The home at that address belongs to a Hillsborough teacher.

Rogers said the woman was friends with Terry years ago, then reconnected with him at his 2017 trial.

She came up from Florida to support him, Rogers said, “and just kept glaring at me.”

Terry is an ex-Marine and software engineer, Rogers said. He played hockey, coached kids’ wrestling and enjoyed spending time on the water.

When deputies found him just after midnight Saturday, he was hiding in overgrown brush off Lithia Pinecrest Road. They took him to Tampa General Hospital to be treated for lacerations he got while fighting his victim.

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He still had not been booked into jail by Sunday afternoon.

A day after getting the news, Rogers was angry, frustrated, shocked — but not really.

She said she feels awful for the victim, terrible her warnings went unheeded. And relieved Terry will be behind bars again, where he can’t hurt her or her kids or anyone else.

Her head aches from reliving her own trauma. And her heart aches for her son, who hasn’t seen his dad since he was an infant. He was supposed to meet him next month. She doesn’t know what to tell him.

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