OGDEN — The family of a man charged with killing an Ogden police officer is asking for help in raising $70,000 that they feel is needed to mount a defense.
The family of Matthew David Stewart has set up a website, www.helpmatthewstewart.org, where they are asking for donations. On the website, they say prosecutors are refusing to turn evidence over to Matthew Stewart's defense attorney.
There is no mention of the two public defenders who have been appointed to handle the case, whose funding is going to be provided by the county.
"All evidence must come out in this case for the truth to be heard," the website states. "This is a complex case that deserves a fair, unbiased review of all evidence. So far, only one side has been given an opportunity to look at anything collected from that horrible night in January."
The website features various sections, including one titled "Remembering Jared Francom." Stewart is charged with killing Francom during a shootout Jan. 4 at his Ogden home. Five other officers were also shot and injured during the melee after the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force showed up at his home to serve a search warrant.
Investigators had received information that Stewart was growing marijuana. After announcing their presence, officers were able to clear the main floor and basement of the home before Stewart emerged and allegedly opened fire.
Investigators later found a marijuana grow operation in the basement, including artificial lighting and a water system.
The website describes the entire incident as a "tragic misunderstanding." Stewart's family contends that the man believed he was being robbed and didn't hear the officers announce their presence.
"Matthew awoke to the sound of breaking glass and thought that he was being robbed and his life threatened," a Feb. 1 post reads. "As a legally armed citizen with military training, his instincts kicked in and he felt forced to defend himself. A complex gun battle ensued where confusion was met with fear and defense on both sides."
The website describes Stewart as a "kind, honest and caring" Ogden High graduate who joined the U.S. Army in 1992. He later did armed security work for the IRS and became a certified massage therapist.
"Matthew is a kind and compassionate man who embraces natural healing methods," the website states. "He has a vast knowledge of the benefits held in massage, herbs and aromatherapy. He is always excited when he has a chance to share this with other people, often making fragrances and candles, or offering free massage work to people he cares about."
The website has a banner section dedicated to Francom, which links to the police officer's obituary and to a Facebook page "Remembering Ogden City police officer/agent Jared Francom."
"The loss of a life is always devastating," the website states above Francom's obituary.
Calls to Stewart's family and the attorney they've hired, Randall Richards, were not returned Friday.
Stewart, 37, is facing charges of aggravated murder, a capital offense; seven counts of attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony; and production of a controlled substance, a second-degree felony. Prosecutors also filed a dangerous weapon penalty enhancement charge and have said they intend to seek the death penalty.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company