Jul. 30—OXFORD — A former Oxford police officer avoided the death penalty but will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing his girlfriend.
Matthew Paul Kinne, 40, pleaded guilty to capital murder Friday afternoon in New Albany for the May 2019 killing of Dominique Clayton, 32. As part of the plea agreement between Kinne and prosecutors, Circuit Court Judge Kent Smith sentenced Kinne to life without the chance of parole.
Immediately following the sentencing, a six-man transportation team from the Mississippi Department of Corrections whisked Kinne out of the courthouse and into a waiting vehicle. He was carried to the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County for processing. He will later be assigned a permanent location to serve his sentence.
During the brief hearing in the Union County Courthouse, neither Kinne nor the victim's family made public comments.
"We wanted the death penalty, but we will settle for life without parole," said Reggie Clayton, who spoke for the victim's family. "Now the healing process can begin."
Kinne's attorney, Anthony Farese, said they did not make a statement to avoid aggravating the pain the victim's family was already feeling.
"In some situations, words would ring hollow," Farese said. "The family chose not to make a statement, and we followed suit."
The plea ends a two-year saga that garnered national attention. While there was no formal testimony, statements by Assistant District Attorney Mickey Mallette and Farese filled in some of the details about the crime.
According to attorneys' statements, Kinne, who was married, and Clayton began seeing each other around August 2018. The two met secretly for sex, and he was financially supporting her. Clayton was unable to cosign a loan with Kinne for a car, so he ended up purchasing it. When Clayton started asking for help paying her rent, the financial strain began to wear on Kinne.
When Kinne tried to end the relationship, Clayton reportedly threatened to tell his wife about their relationship.
"This was a crime of passion," Farese said. "It got to the point he couldn't get out. He wanted his life back."
At the end of his shift on May 19, 2019, Kinne drove in his marked patrol car to Clayton's east Oxford house. The door was unlocked. After entering the home and finding Clayton asleep, Kinne moved his car around the corner and retrieved his duty weapon. He then placed a .380 shell in his Glock 9mm pistol.
Kinne walked back inside and shot Clayton once in the head. He then drove back to the Oxford Police Department horse barn. The .380 shell jammed in the pistol. Kinne removed the shell casing and threw it out somewhere along South Lamar Boulevard.
Kinne left his cell phone at the horse barn when he went to Clayton's house. After retrieving the phone, he then sent Clayton a text in an attempt to confuse any investigation.
"We feel that was done in an attempt to distance himself from the crime," Mallette said.
Clayton was discovered by her 8-year-old son later that Sunday afternoon, around 2 p.m. When investigators learned Clayton was in a relationship with Kinne, they called in the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to take over the case. During an initial interview that evening, Kinne admitted the affair but denied having anything to do with Clayton's death.
Armed with more evidence, including security video from Clayton's house showing the patrol car arriving and leaving, Oxford police and MBI arrested Kinne the following night. During a second interview, he confessed to the killing.
Third District Attorney Ben Creekmore said his office was ready to go to trial and had evidence to show Kinne committed the underlying felony of burglary in order to seek the death penalty.
"Nothing is ever easy when you're talking about a death penalty case," Creekmore said. "This plea accomplished (the family's) wishes without having to go through the procedure of a trial. I appreciate the family trusting us to get to this point."
Creekmore said he hopes the outcome will put the family "in a position to move forward."
At the time of the crime, Kinne was married to his second wife and had a 2-year-old child. She has since divorced him and left the area. He also had two teenage children by his late-first wife.
Clayton left behind four children.