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Delaware County judge denies modified sentence for man convicted of ‘cold-hearted’ murder

Matt Stidham. (Provided Photo/Indiana Department of Correction)

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — A Delaware County judge on Tuesday denied a convicted murderer’s motion to modify his prison sentence.

That’s according to a release shared by Delaware County Prosecutor Eric Hoffman Tuesday afternoon.

The release states that on February 23, 1991, 17-year-old Matt Stidham and his friends, along with 31-year-old Daniel Barker, drove to Barker’s apartment in Eaton to hang out.

While at the apartment, the group “drank whiskey and played guitars” before starting to roughhouse and “trade punches.” The playfighting eventually grew into an angry encounter between Stidham and Barker.

As the fight escalated, Stidham’s friends joined in and started to beat Barker. The group beat, kicked, and battered him with a club. They then gagged Barker, placed him in the back of a van with some of Barker’s electrical equipment, and drove off.

The group took Barker to a secluded area near the Mississinewa River, an hour away from Eaton. Stidham and his friends pulled Barker from the van and beat him again.

They also stabbed Barker 47 times before throwing his body into the river.

Stidham and his friends told other friends of theirs about the killing. After visiting the other friends, the group drove to Illinois, where they were arrested.

Stidham was originally sentenced to 141 years for his charges of murder, robbery that caused serious bodily injury, criminal confinement, and battery.

In 2018, Delaware County Judge Kimberly Dowling resentenced Stidham to terms of 60, 50, and 20 years for his convictions. Dowling ordered those terms be served at the same time.

This order would have made Stidham eligible for release with credit for good behavior and time served.

The judge said in court that while Stidham’s crime was “heinous,” his accomplishments in prison were outstanding. He earned college degrees while behind bars and received several certifications for firefighting.

Stidham’s attorney defended him, saying he “‘changed drastically’ over the decades and is no longer the ‘angry teenager’ prosecuted for Barker’s death.”

Delaware County Prosecutor Eric Hoffman opposed Stidham’s resentencing, saying Stidham’s attack was a “brutal, cold-hearted execution.”

On July 14, Stidham filed a petition to modify his sentence, which was denied by Judge Dowling Tuesday.

“I will not agree to a reduction of a violent criminal’s sentence. Violent offenders must serve every minute of their sentence. The (passage) of time does not erase the pain and suffering inflicted at the hands of violent criminals, nor does it lessen the risk that the person will commit another heinous crime,” Hoffman said in Tuesday’s release.

Stidham, now 50, is being held at the Indiana State Prison. He will be released in 2056.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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