The mayor of Mount Laurel Township and a New Jersey Assemblywoman said Monday that they had been threatened by the man accused of harassing his Black neighbors.
The latest allegations came Monday, hours before the Mount Laurel Township Council held ts first meeting since Edward Cagney Mathews was charged in a bias case that captured national attention.
Mayor Stephen Steglik and the council expressed concern Monday night about the incident involving Mathews but said they could not comment because it is under investigation. About 75 people attended the meeting, including Black Lives Matters activists who addressed the council. There were tears, chants, and demands to overhaul the police department.
Steglik disclosed that he was threatened by Mathews, about a week before the incident with a Black resident went viral. Steglik said Mathews left a message at the township office demanding to see him.
“I perceived it as a threat,” Steglik said in an interview Monday.
The incident is under investigation by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office as well as other complaints by residents against Mathews, Steglik said. Investigators are also reviewing how local police handled events that led to Mathews’ arrest on July 5.
“I’m really glad that everything is being looked at” Steglik said.
State Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D., Burlington) said Mathews began contacting her Cinnaminson office last year when she was planning a legislative hearing about homeowners’ associations. Mathews became frustrated when the hearing was postponed because of COVID-19, she said.
Murphy said emails from Mathews escalated over the last month. Mathews warned her that “he knew where she lived,” she said. She said she notified police when Mathews informed her: “It’s time that we meet in person or he was going to come and see me.”
“I took it seriously,” said Murphy, adding that she spent $2,000 to install security cameras at her Mount Laurel home.
Mathews, 45, was arrested last week after a boisterous protest in front of his home in the Essex Place development in the Larchmont section of Mount Laurel. In the altercation with resident Etchu Brandon Tambe, Mathews spewed racial hatred and dared people to “come see me” and dozens showed up.
During the Council meeting, several speakers questioned why it took police 72 hours to place Mathews under arrest. He was initially given a summons and released. The crowd chanted “Shame!”
”Absurd. Distasteful. Disgusting,” said Kason Little, a Black Lives Matter activist from North Jersey. He was wearing a T-shirt that read “Proud Black King.”
Aliya Robinson, 43, a realtor, said she has considered moving from Mount Laurel. Her daughter had confrontations with Mathews in 2016 in another development in the township that continued for several years after he kicked in her door and called her racial names, she said.
“This is systemic racism,” said Robinson. “It’s despicable.”
Perfect Monyookaye, 13, an upcoming eighth grader, told the council that she has experienced racism in school, where she is often the only Black student in her classes.
”I’ve experienced probably the worst racism I ever did in my life,” the teen said. Someone in the crowd responded: “Only 13.”
Mathews has been charged with a host of charges, including bias intimidation, harassment, trespassing, stalking, and drug and weapons possession.
He remains in the county jail in Mount Holly — unreachable for comment about the latest allegations against him — pending a virtual detention hearing at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Superior Court Judge Terrence Cook could order that Mathews remain in custody, pending trial, or that he find another place to live.
He told The Inquirer that his conduct stemmed from a long-running housing dispute involving the homeowners’ association. Mathews also said he had been drunk. He moved to the neighborhood in 2019.
The association’s attorney said Mathews had a beef with three Black residents who served on the association’s board, and often would use racial slurs in confrontations. The association found Mathews guilty of unbecoming conduct and barred him from running for a seat on the board.
In the video captured outside the home of LeRon Brown, the association’s president, Mathews can be seen in an altercation with Tambe. Mathews chest-bumped Tambe and spit at him, trying to provoke him, police said.
Tambe, 25, an airman in the Air Force, refused to push back against Mathews. His wife, Marilyn, recorded the incident and the video exploded on social media.
In another incident July 2, another association board member, Verlyn Gibbons, who is also Black, told police Mathews was harassing her, standing in front of her door using profanity, racial slurs and making lewd gestures. She also accused Mathews of vandalizing her car.