Suspect charged with aggravated assault after allegedly using ukulele to beat man in St. George shelter

Matthew Austin Cowart. Photo: Washington County Sheriff

ST. GEORGE, Utah, Dec. 28, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — A man who was staying at Switchpoint Community Resource Center in St. George was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of using a ukulele to beat another Switchpoint resident.

Matthew Austin Cowart, 42, is facing a charge of aggravated assault, with the use of a weapon, a second-degree felony.

An officer with the St. George Police Department responded to a disorderly call at the shelter on Wednesday and met with the male victim, who was sitting in the lobby and was covered in his own blood, according to a probable cause statement filed in 5th District Court in Washington County.

The victim had cuts on the top of his head and face, and had “large swollen knots forming on his face, under his eye, and on his head,” the officer wrote.

The victim told the officer a man named Matthew had approached him earlier that day and spat on his face. The victim said he avoided the confrontation and went into his room, where he got into his bunk and covered his face with blankets in an attempt to fall asleep.

“(The victim) stated that the next thing he remembers was being in a head lock/choke hold on the floor, and being punched in the face by Matthew simultaneously,” the affidavit says.

The victim said he doesn’t remember how the fight started and said he was knocked unconscious. Another roommate broke up the fight.

When the officer met with Matthew Cowart, Cowart told him he was protecting another person from the victim. He said the victim “mentally/psychologically abuses his roommates” and he was tired of it and decided to defend them.

Cowart was advised of his Miranda rights and was willing to talk with the officer according to the statement.

When asked how the fight started, Cowart replied that the victim was in his bed when Cowart approached and tried to pull him down from the bunk. Cowart said he started to throw punches when the victim got out of bed, and the fight ended up on the floor, where he put the victim in a headlock and continued punching him, the document states. He said the victim also hit his head on the floor.

In the room where the incident took place, the officer observed a puddle of blood on the floor, blood droplets, and a ukulele that had blood on it and a screw sticking out of it near the tuners.

Another roommate told the officer he saw Cowart used the ukulele to hit the victim.

When the officer spoke again with Cowart, Cowart repeatedly denied using the ukulele to hit the victim, the document states.

“I observed Matthews hands, that were not swollen, bruised, or bloody, although the rest of his clothing was covered in (the victim’s) blood,” the officer wrote. “The injuries that (the victim) suffered, and the condition of Matthews hands, were not consistent with what Matthew was stating.”

Cowart was placed under arrest for aggravated assault with the use of a weapon, and because the victim went unconscious due to Cowart using a choke hold on him, the offense was enhanced to a second-degree felony, the document says.

Cowart was booked into Washington County Jail, where he is being held on no bail.


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