While investigating the Johnson murder, the Police retrieved DMV Title information for all old orange pick-up trucks and began to investigate people who had owned them. In 1985, Matt had purchased an old, broken-down 1967 Chevy pick-up truck which had no bed on it. It was rusted out, with bald tires and metal-to-metal brakes, but the drive train worked well. He purchased it for $50.00. He took two logs and mounted them across the frame, nailed a sheet of plywood onto them, and put a small 2 x 4 rail around it, in an effort to make it street legal.
He drove the pick-up truck around for a few weeks, until he purchased an old Oldsmobile, at which time he sold the truck to his landlady’s brother who wanted the engine for his own similar truck. The sale was effected in August 1985. The purchaser, Butch Perkins, pulled the engine out of the truck and cut it up for parts. In September 1985, he was cited by the Mansfield Ohio Bureau of Codes and Permits for having truck parts piled up by the side of his house. The truck did not match the description of the vehicle used in the crime. The truck in the crime had a floor shifter and Matt’s former truck had a column shifter.
On March 17, 1987 Sheriffs’ Deputies from Ashland & Richmond County visited Matt’s home in Mansfield. They spoke to Nancy because Matt was at work. They claimed they were clearing out old truck titles and said Matt had a truck titled in his name. They left their card and asked Matt to call them the following day.
On March 18, 1987 Matt and Nancy voluntarily went to the Sheriff’s Department in Mansfield. Nancy waited in the lobby. Matt was taken to a conference type room with two Detectives - John Napier [Richland County Sheriff’s Dept] and Charles Massie [Ashland County Sheriff’s Dept]. They started to interrogate Matt about an old 1967 Chevrolet pick-up truck which was titled in his name. Matt informed them he had sold the truck for parts a couple of years prior. The Detectives continued to question him about appearance of the truck, then asked about Matt’s work, marital status, hobbies etc. After about 45 minutes, it was obvious to Matt they were questioning about something more than just the truck title.
The Detectives stated he was correct, and confirmed he was a suspect in a murder, and that his truck matched the one used in a crime. Matt requested access to an attorney, but the Detectives said this was not necessary, as the conversation was “off the record”. Matt asked for permission to leave, to speak to his wife. But they said it was not necessary, as they were almost done. Matt asked who had been killed and when, but the Detectives would not tell him anything, other than it happened in the Spring of 1986. The Detectives asked Matt if he would agree to a polygraph examination, whereupon agreeing to this, Matt was finally allowed to leave.
Matt returned to the lobby and explained to Nancy what had happened. Nancy suggested they go to the library and look at old newspapers, to try and find out what case the Police were talking about. Matt and Nancy discovered articles relating to the Gurcia Johnson case, including composite drawings that vaguely resembled Matt and Joe Griffith. (Later, Nancy’s daughter Cyndi pointed out that the other composite more closely resembled Dan Miller). This was the only case they could find, that mentioned an old pick-up truck in Mifflin; as these were the subjects of the questions ,the Police had asked Matt. Matt and Nancy returned to the police station with the news articles, and told the Detectives that if this was what they were accusing Matt of, they did not know anything about it. After leaving the police station, Matt spoke to an attorney that he knew, and was advised not to take a polygraph test, because they would manipulate the results. Matt revisited the police and told them what a lawyer had advised him. He did not hear anything else about the matter.
In 1989, while allegedly checking up on the old truck titles again, the police visited a house on Second Street in Mansfield where Matt had lived with his wife Nancy, and her three children. (They had married in June 1986 and moved from Ohio in August 1987, to a house in Indiana where Matt had family). When police arrived at the property in Second Street, Mansfield, the next-door neighbor Judy Taylor, came out to see what they wanted. Taylor was a former Mansfield prostitute, and it was later learned had served as a personal "party girl" for then-Mansfield Police Detective Robert Lemon. She had married a school acquaintance of Matt, Vic Taylor. But Taylor had never got along with Matt, despite the fact that Nancy had convinced their landlord to rent the house next door, when the Taylors’ landlord had kicked them out of the apartment they had lived in. When Taylor found out the Police were investigating the Gurcia Johnson murder, and they were checking old truck titles purportedly linking Matt to the case, Johnson allegedly told the Police that Matt had "told her he did it". Her story was that Gurcia Johnson's brother Marshall had come around asking about Matt and Dan Miller, and that he believed they had killed his sister. Taylor also claimed that she had once confronted Matt with the statement "I know someone who is after you", to which she claimed Matt replied, "Oh, I offed his sister" hollering across the yard on a public street in downtown Mansfield. Armed with this statement (it was later discovered that Taylor was paid $1,000 for this statement), she directed the Police to several other people who were ex-friends of Matt, who were also willing to give "he told me he did it" statements to Police.
Eventually, a case was assembled against Matt for the 1985 murder of Gurcia Johnson.
On October 19, 1990 at approximately 3pm, Matt arrived back home from work as a Tele-Marketer. The Mason family had relocated to Clearwater, Florida in 1989 where Nancy had family. Matt changed out of the suit he wore for work, and into regular casual clothes. He decided to drive approximately one mile to the local Domino's Pizza to buy the $3 “Pepperoni Come and Get It Special”. About halfway there, his car was surrounded by several police cruisers, and he was ordered at multiple gun-point to get out of his car, and get on the ground. He was handcuffed and taken to jail. When he asked why, he was told that he would find out at the jail.
In jail, a man introduced himself as Detective David Shook from Mansfield, Ohio and told Matt that he was charged with aggravated murder, in the death of Gurcia Johnson. Matt immediately told him he was innocent and requested a polygraph, but was refused. Bond was set at $450,000 cash. No 10%. No property. Upon waiving extradition, Matt was transported to Ohio 30 days later. The Indictment charging Mason was dated October 18, 1990, the day before his arrest.
The Trial, Prosecutor Misconduct, Jury Tampering, Perjury and Miscarriage of Justice