Mother says son facing murder charge should get death penalty

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CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. - A mother told Eyewitness News that her son, who is charged with murder, should get the death penalty.

Deputies said he killed his mother's husband and attacked his mom.

On Monday, a scared and bruised Jennifer Cloninger said something about her son that she never thought she would say.

“He should have the death penalty for what he's done,” she said.

There was a family fight over a car Friday near Shelby. Deputies said Matthew Safrit, 21, shot and killed his stepfather, Nathan Cloninger, and then stabbed his mother as she tried to protect her dying husband.

Monday in court, Safrit told a judge he is not a violent man. He seemed remorseful as he told the judge he was using drugs and drinking alcohol.

“You can't take a life and apologize and think that everything is going to be OK,” Cloninger said.  “Because it's not.”

Eyewitness News watched as Safrit and his girlfriend, Natalie Champion, whispered “I love you” to each other across the courtroom Monday.

“It is really hard to think that I may never be able to see him again, like, be with him,” Champion said.

She said her boyfriend was battling depression. She said a video of Safrit smashing his own car shows how angry he was. He posted the video on Facebook last week.

“He had been showing signs of bad, bad, bad pain and hurt and sorrow and misery,” Champion said.

She said seconds after the shooting, Safrit came to her dazed and confused.

“Held me and told me he loved me and walked behind the trailer,” Champion said.

On Monday morning, he seemed sober when the judge told him he could get the death penalty if convicted.

His mother thinks that is the best resolution.

“He is my son, and I love him,” Cloninger said. “But it going to be hard forgiving him.”

Safrit was given a court-appointed attorney on Monday. They will have to be ready to go before a judge again on Aug. 6.