Episode Four: Who killed Patty Matix?

Before FBI shootout, suspects had common bond -- death of their wives

Double lives. That's what family, friends and investigators discover about Michael Lee Platt and William Russell Matix when their names became associated with the bloodiest day in FBI history.

SUBSCRIBE to the Florida Files - iTunes | Android

On April 11, 1986, after a stolen car stop, Matix and Platt come out shooting, killing two FBI agents and wounding five others in what is still today known as one of the worst gunfights that law enforcement ever encountered. Once their names become known, other stories begin to emerge. Trails of blood from Miami to Ohio. And secrets the two men took to their grave.

There are ghosts from the past that resurface. Former wives of the two men meet with untimely deaths -- one murdered, the other one dead from a shotgun blast in what police rule as a suicide a few years before the FBI shootout.

Detectives from Columbus, Ohio, fly to Florida after they hear of Matix's death.

"Two killers gunned down after murdering two FBI agents and wounding five others," then-Eyewitness News reporter Susan Candiotti reports. "Meanwhile, police are reopening the violent deaths of the killer's wives. William Matix for one, his wife, Patricia, was murdered two and a half years ago in Columbus, Ohio. The case never solved. Then there's killer Michael Lee Platt. His wife, Regina, allegedly committed suicide with a shotgun blast to the head nearly a year after the Matix murder."

Arriving at Miami International Airport, one of the Columbus detectives stated: "I can only say that we're here to review what these gentleman from Florida have, and we'll have to make a determination after we've looked at everything."

Military men, family men

Matix is a born-again Christian, a family and church man. He joins the Marines right out of high school, then goes to meat-cutter's school. He wants to be a chef.

Platt is from a military family from Bloomington, Indiana. He spends his growing years on military bases around the country. He moves to Florida after his father retires to Homestead and eventually goes to work with his brother, Tim, in his tree-trimming business.

Matix and Platt meet as military policemen in Korea 10 years before the April 11, 1986, shootout on a southwest Dade County street. Matix moves to Miami on the invitation of his friend Platt. It's after the death of his wife. He's a grieving husband and father who just happened to have collected $350,000 in insurance money after Patricia Matix's murder.

Platt invites him to join him in the lawn business in Florida. The two decide to split off from Tim Platt's business and form their own. They call it Yankee Clipper. Police later say it served as a front for them to scope out their hits while tooling around in a landscaping truck.

Platt, 32, lives at 15031 SW 88th Lane, and Matix, 34, lives at 15615 SW 85th Ave. in a subdivision called Southwood. Both men's homes are within miles of where they die and close to the restaurants and shopping centers where they would wait for armored car guards, shoot them and take money bags, and nearby to the banks where the robbers terrorized tellers and customers.

Then-Eyewitness News reporter Vickie Frazier goes to the neighborhood to speak with people who lived near Matix.

"One day after the FBI fought a fierce battle for their lives in broad daylight, the curious still crowd into this Kendall community on Southwest 82nd Avenue and 122nd Street, taking pictures and asking questions alongside agents trying to reconstruct the shootout," Frazier says. "Still, it's not the only south Dade neighborhood dealing with shock today. Friends of William Matix can't believe it was their neighbor who lay dead in the street yesterday, responsible for the wild shootout that left two agents dead and another five wounded."

One person Frazier speaks with says: "We were the only people that really spoke with him. He had just moved in. He was a real nice guy. I'd be working out here and he'd come and cut the trees and mow the lawn."

Another woman Frazier interviewed, 26-year-old Hellen Brennan, who lived across the street, said she had gone out on a date with Matix once.

"It was a shock that somebody like that could, you know, you never know," she says.

Murder at the hospital

It's December 1983. Patty Matix is working at her job at a cancer research lab at Riverside Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Just two months earlier, she's given birth to a daughter, Melissa. Another woman is working in the lab with her. Joyce McFadden tells Patty she's going to the library to do some research. Patty is in the lab alone in the late afternoon on Dec. 30, 1983. At 4:30 p.m., Joyce hears a call over the hospital intercom. "Joyce McFadden. Come to the cancer lab, and stat!"

Less than a half hour later, it's discovered that Joyce McFadden has been bound and gagged and stabbed to death. Patricia Matix is stabbed 16 times and her wedding ring is stolen.

William Lee Matix is pictured here with his daughter, Melissa.

Columbus, Ohio, mystery author David Meyers has followed the story for 35 years. In the book that he wrote with his daughter, Elise Meyers Walker, in which they look back at 16 tales of murder, mystery and mayhem, "Historic Columbus Crimes," they devote a chapter to the Riverside Hospital murder.

"We have a chapter about the FBI shootout, but we really emphasize the murder of Joyce McFadden and Patty Matix," Meyers says.

Meyers says the case remains unsolved, and, when he last checked, he was told that the Columbus police would like to get a hearing to try to get a resolution, but that "it probably won't happen because of the resources involved."

Meyers says there were a lot of missteps that corrupted the crime scene, which makes it more difficult for police to get evidence. He says the supervisor of the cancer lab was on vacation, but stops to pick up his mail, and when he goes to the lab, he finds the body of Joyce McFadden on the floor.

"She had been bound and gagged with tape and stabbed 19 times," Meyers recalls. "She had bled out completely."

The supervisor is shocked and calls the president of the hospital, whose office was near the cancer lab. He says that the then-president of the hospital at the time, Erie Chapman, calls the hospital's lawyer.

"So, you have all these people examining the lab," Meyers says. "But it's only after all those people were in there that they final call police."

Meyers says that when the police finally arrive, they open the door to an adjoining cold room.

"There they find the body of Patty Matix," Meyers says. "She had been killed in a similar fashion -- bound and gagged and stabbed 16 times."

"The killer had stuffed a towel under the door," Meyers continues, adding that McFadden's desk drawers had been gone through.

He surmises that it may have been to make the crime look like a robbery.

"At this point, they don't even know if the murderer has left the building, so they secure the building and check everyone," Meyers says. "There were fingerprints all over the place. They identified 150 different fingerprints."

They find Matix's fingerprints.

"That could be explained away because Matix would visit Patti at work," he says.

Meyers also says that detectives find a footprint from a boot by JC Penney.

"Detectives in Columbus go through 40,000 sales receipts trying to figure out who purchased the boot and who might have access to the lab," Meyers says.

They discover a construction worker who was working in the hospital at the time.

"He was very cooperative and they searched his home until the newspapers announced that he was a suspect, and then he was not as cooperative," Meyers says.

Eventually, detectives rule out the construction worker and his boot because the boot was much more worn than the one from the print they found at the laboratory.

I call the Columbus Police Department's homicide cold case squad and ask them what the status of Patty Matix and Joyce McFadden's case is. They tell me it's still unsolved and that in 2012 a television station in town revived the case on a news report, but they didn't get any leads from it.

To this day, the case remains unsolved.

'God only lets you go so far'

It's April 1986 in New Madison, Ohio. Yvonne Emerick sees the national news about a shootout that's killed FBI agents in Miami. When she speaks with her daughter, Judy Matix, she says to her, "Isn't that something about what happened in Miami?"

Less than 12 hours later, she gets the call that her third child, William, is one of the gunmen involved in the agents' killings, and that he is dead. She speaks to a TV station in Ohio about her son.

"What happened? I think his mind snapped," Emerick says. "And I said, 'I felt so sorry for those people down there, the FBI, their families. They was doing their job and I know they had to do it. Somebody had to stop him. Bill was a Christian, and God only lets you go so far. And if you don't stop, he's going to bring you down.'"

Shocked, too, is good friend and the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Delaware, Ohio, the church where Patty and Bill were members, and who consoled Matix after Patty's death.

I call David Culver, who is the lead pastor now at Shawnee Hills Baptist Church in Jamestown, Ohio. "It was a long time ago," Culver says. "Yet, when I think about it, it becomes quite fresh."

Culver says Bill and Patty were newly married and very involved in the church. They had a baby named Melissa. Culver says Bill helped with the church's kitchen and put to use his culinary skills. He would also teach self-defense classes because of his military background.

"There was never a hint of this type of aggression in Bill when I knew him," Culver says. "It wasn't the Bill I knew. It wasn't the Bill anyone knew."

When Culver heard about Patty's murder, he says he was away in Tennessee for the Christmas holiday through New Year's. He rushed back to help Bill.

"I got the call and it stunned me and my wife. We could not believe it," Culver says. "At that time, it was just, Patty got murdered, and how in the world could that happen? And in a hospital? We just packed up things and got back to be there for Bill and Melissa. He evidenced shock and all that you would expect from a husband whose wife got murdered. And the name Michael Platt never came into the conversation."

Police say the two men could have given up. But Miami-Dade police Sgt. Tony Monheim, who was on the squad that was tracking the robbers and later worked in the homicide division, believes that wasn't ever in their plans.

He also has his own suspicions about Patty Matix's murder and Regina Platt's suicide.

"We speculated that maybe they had formed a pack to kill each other's wives, like the old Alfred Hitchcock movie, 'Strangers on a Train,'" Monheim says.

They both had perfect alibis, too, remembers Monheim. The robbery detective also says that they were trailing Matix and Platt, doing surveillance at the rock pit, where they believed the two men were shooting people and stealing their cars.

"We had gone out to a place called Square Lake at Southwest Eighth Street," he recalls. "It's a popular shooting area. On a couple of occasions we had just missed them or our surveillance ended before they got there. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had we confronted them, if we would have had a shootout there."

Video vault and audio archive for The Florida Files from WPLG Local 10 and Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Archives.