Concerns raised after convicted cop killer allowed to coach baseball team

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Convicted cop killer to coach youth baseball team
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Some are concerned after a convicted cop killer was allowed to coach children in a neighborhood Babe Ruth league.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some are concerned after a convicted cop killer was allowed to coach children in a neighborhood Babe Ruth league. The family of the officer who was killed wants to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

The man convicted of the murder says he served his time and was just trying to help his community by coaching over the last several years. While some knew his past, others wondered why a background check didn't immediately disqualify him from working with kids.

On May 21, 1988, a group of young people in Hegewisch beat off-duty Chicago Police Officer John Mathews to death when he broke up a gathering near his home. Twenty-six years later, Officer Matthews' family is upset to learn one of the men convicted in the murder was coaching Babe Ruth baseball in that same neighborhood.

"The fact is a man who killed another man using a baseball bat is coaching kids to swing a baseball bat. It boggles the mind," said Joey Mathews, officer's son.

Joey Mathews followed his father's footsteps into public service and is now a Cicero firefighter. He was just 4 years old when he lost his dad.

"Don't have a single memory. My sister was 6 years old. She has memories. I feel like it's a blessing and a curse," said Joey Mathews.

Dean Chavez served 11 years for the murder. He's seen here after coaching his team to a first-place finish earlier this summer.

"He coached my son for two years and I never saw him angry," said Jennifer Castillo, mother.

"He was just our coach. We knew he killed somebody," said Joseph Castillo, former player.

ABC7's Ben Bradley: "Did it matter to folks on the team?"

Castillo: "It didn't matter, he was real nice to us."

It matters to the Mathews family and others in the Hegewisch neighborhood. After several confrontations, Dean Chavez quit coaching and resigned his board position last month.

Chris Banks is a cop who earlier forced Chavez to step down from a separate little league board.

"I said I understand you want to help but because of that past, it's never going to go away, it's always going to be an issue, it's going to be a distraction with your team, and he agreed that it would be a problem and he said he would step away," said Banks.

"Parents need to know who their kids are around and elected boards are responsible to those parents to keep their kids safe," said Mathews.

A community meeting is planned for Wednesday night where parents can talk about ways to strengthen the background check process. Dean Chavez says he has no plans to fight to keep coaching or volunteering in the league. He says he was just trying to help.