OGDEN — The sister-in-law of Matthew David Stewart went to bat for the accused cop-killer following a hearing Monday in 2nd District Court.
Stewart is charged with aggravated murder and seven counts of attempted aggravated murder in connection with a Jan. 4 shootout with police attempting to serve a drug search warrant at his Ogden home.
One officer was killed and five others wounded.
Stewart could face the death penalty if convicted in the killing of Officer Jared Francom.
But his sister-in-law, Erna Stewart, described him as someone who writes fantasy novels and is fond of music, the outdoors, weightlifting, holistic healing and massage therapy.
“The brother I know is sweet, compassionate and kind of quirky,” she said, speaking to the assembled media after the hearing.
She also said Stewart “loves anything to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
The main reason she was speaking out was to announce a rally for Stewart that will begin at noon Friday on the front steps of the Ogden Municipal Building, 2549 Washington Blvd.
Speakers will address the need to put an end to “home invasion raids by police,” she said. “We want to make it so our police officers are peace officers again.”
She said the rally is not intended to condemn officers, because they are in harm’s way as well during raids such as the “knock and announce” entry of her brother-in-law’s home.
“Heavens no, we don’t mean any disrespect to police,” she said.
“We’re doing our best to support them as well. I once thought of being a police officer. … This is not against them, it’s for them.”
After the speakers’ remarks, the group will cross Washington Boulevard and head to the Weber County Attorney’s Office, where another presentation will take place.
Erna Stewart said she is aligned with the Keep the Peace organization formed by activist Jesse Fruhwirth in support of Matthew Stewart and opposed to violent responses to drug offenses.
The group plans to press the Weber County Attorney’s Office to release information regarding the Stewart case, according to various websites and Facebook pages, or to ask for an accounting of officer-involved shootings.
An event page created off one of the Matthew Stewart Facebook pages calls Stewart a “POW: Prisoner of War in the War on Drugs.”
It lists 1,219 people invited to the Friday rally, 74 who responded as “going,” with 52 maybes. Attendees are asked to wear black clothing.
Asked exactly what the visit to the county attorney’s office would involve, Erna Stewart would only say, “You’ll have to come see.”
Police say 16 marijuana plants and grow equipment were confiscated from Stewart’s home after the raid.
Monday’s hearing before 2nd District Judge Noel Hyde resulted in the scheduling of another hearing May 22 for debate on whether to close a hearing on the defense team’s request for funds to hire a second investigator in the case.
Stewart’s preliminary hearing on the charges is set for July 18-20.