As I have said before, when I go through my list of names to research I sometimes find myself with clusters of things that are similar. Sometimes it is a state; sometimes it is a sentence; and sometimes it is just a similar type of crime or criminal. Just as in the last case that I published this one took place in Indiana, and the defendant was executed by the state. However, this case is not only much different as far as circumstances, it was also a case that brought many changes to the state and a spotlight was shown throughout the nation.
On March 4, 1989 some residents of Mishawaka Indiana watched in horror as their neighbor, twenty-nine year old Lisa Bianco was being beaten in the middle of the street in front of their eyes. Also watching were Lisa Bianco's two young daughters. The only thing that could have possibly been more horrible for them to see their mother beaten was to know she was being beaten by their father, Alan Matheney. By the time Matheney was done, the gun he had used to beat Lisa had broken into pieces and she would be dead.
Lisa and Alan had divorced in 1985 after about seven years of marriage. According to the family those seven years were riddled with abuse. By the mid 1980's domestic violence was still not taken as seriously as it should have been. Lisa had done everything possible to protect herself. She not only filed police reports, she got restraining orders and did what she could to take every precaution she could.
Soon after the divorce Alan had kidnapped the couple's two daughters. After six weeks on the run with them he was found in North Carolina. While all of the research speaks of this as if there was an aggressive hunt and he had eluded authorities, knowing the time frame of this incident leaves me highly skeptical of this account because parental abductions were also not taken as seriously as they should have been. At any rate Alan was caught and brought back to Indiana. He posted bond on the kidnapping charges and soon after went to Lisa's home where he bound, raped and beat her all in attempt to get her to drop the charges in the kidnapping case. Once again he was arrested, posted bond and went to Lisa's home again where he would once again beat her and strangle her in February of 1987. At least at this point his bond was revoked.
Alan would take a plea agreement that on paper did not even begin to tell the real story. He pleaded guilty to one count of battery and one count of kidnapping. He was facing a count of rape but the probation officer expressed doubt in this charge saying that the couple had a tendency to get back together from time to time and cited Lisa's comments in which she all but said she consented to the sex only because she knew things would be worse for her and could have meant her death if she did not. Apparently to the probation officer and the prosecutor this meant she wanted it. I know, amazing, but it is true. So, for his plea agreement he received eight years with three suspended on the two counts that he pleaded to.
I cannot tell you just what prison officials know about each specific case, if they are given details or even if they do have access to the details if they care. The point here is that on paper the man was convicted of one count each of battery and kidnapping and was given a sentence that including some time suspended. Officials would later claim that it was the single charges and the fact that he had been given some suspended time, added with the good behavior they saw from him inside the prison that gave them a false idea of his true behavior.
So for the next nearly two years while Alan was in prison Lisa was attempting to move on, keep herself protected and prepare for a future when Alan would be released. She was convinced that given the chance Alan would kill her.... she was right. At some point there was talk of him receiving a furlough pass. Alan's mother would inform Lisa about it. She would contact the prison and the furlough would be denied. She also fought to be informed officially by officials if he was to be let out for any reason what so ever. While that may seem to be very reasonable and often the case today in 2017, that was not the case in 1989. For her part Lisa was working at a woman's shelter in Elkhart Indiana as a program director. She was doing all she could to stay safe, help others and still try her best to bring awareness to domestic violence.
One report stated that Alan was actually denied four different attempts at a furlough but other than the at least one we know that Lisa fought it is unclear if this is accurate or if she was involved in more attempts. Then came March of 1989. Alan was being held at Pendleton State Prison that was located about twenty-five miles northeast of Indianapolis. He had asked for and was granted an eight hour furlough pass to supposedly meet with an attorney in Indianapolis. His mother would pick him up at the jail but instead of going to south to Indianapolis they went northwest about 140 miles until they reached the town of Goshen Indiana where a friend of Alan's lived. Once there Alan would change clothes, grab and unloaded shot gun and leave his mother at the home while he head the twenty or so miles to Mishawaka where Lisa lived.
Alan would park a few door down from Lisa's home and break in the back door. Lisa had just gotten out of the shower and was only clad in her underwear. She screamed for her daughter to go to the neighbors house to get help and both she and her daughter ran out the door. Alan chased her down the street and as she attempted to knock on a neighbors door he caught up with her. He repeatedly beat her with the butt end of the shotgun to the point that the gun broke into pieces. When he was done he apparently calmly got into his mother's vehicle and drove away. When it was approaching time for his furlough to end he turned himself into the police. I mean, he did not want to be late getting back to the prison!! That was sarcasm by the way, something I rarely use in my writing but seemed appropriate here.
Obviously by this time there had been a report, with plenty of witnesses who had seen exactly what had happened. The governor at the time, Evan Bayh had only been in office less than two months in his first term. He immediately but an end to all prison furloughs and two of the prison officials were suspended without pay while the investigation into what exactly happened was done. Some reports say that eventually the officials were eventually fired but it is unclear if that is true or not.
Matheney went to trial in April of 1990. His trial would be held in St. Joseph County where the crime occurred but due to the publicity in the case a jury was brought in from nearby Lake County. His defense attempted to argue that he suffered from a mental disorder. They called a few doctors to the stand to argue their point. One doctor stated that he suffered from schizophreniform disorder while another said he suffered from a personality disorder with psychic delusions. As the relative of someone who suffers from schizophrenia I had never heard of schizophreniform disorder so I looked it searched for a definition. In order to have a diagnosis of schizophrenia a person has to show the symptoms, that include delusions, hallucinations, and other odd behavior a significant portion of the time for a period of six months. To have a diagnosis of schizophreniform disorder the signs are said to be there a significant amount of time in a monthly period but not present the full six months that is needed for a schizophrenia diagnosis. I find this diagnosis suspicious for someone like Matheney whose defense would look for things to lessen his culpability considering they could not argue he had not committed the crime. The bigger problem for the defense was despite these claims by their “experts,” none of them could say he was legally insane at the time of the murder. They would also argue that while Matheney was scheduled to be released from prison in August of 1990 he was convinced that Lisa was having an affair with the local prosecutor and they were planning to keep him in jail for life.
The jury did not believe the defense theory and convicted him of aggravated burglary and murder. It was said that the outrage that the community had felt went straight to the statehouse and that very early on Governor Bayh encouraged the prosecutor to seek the death penalty, which he did, and the jury complied. On September 28, 2005 the State of Indiana executed Alan Matheney by lethal injection.
Lisa Bianco's death put a national spotlight on domestic violence across the country but especially in Indiana. She did everything right. She did everything that the law allowed her to do. She was not one of those women who did not report things. It was said that her death answered the age old question “Why does she just not leave?” She did. She got restraining orders. She even got him put in prison. But the law failed her. First they failed her by lessening his crime to begin with and then they failed her when not only did they allow him out of the prison unaccompanied by a prison official, but failed to notify her. Granted, there was not a notification process at the time but she had asked for one. Women at shelters across the country claim that their abusers informed them they were next.
The state apparently eventually did allow furloughs back into the prison system but with clear restrictions although I was unable to determine what those were. Advocates of the prison population had argued for those saying that they helped inmate re-enter society when it is time. Indiana changed several things in the wake of Lisa's murder. For one, the notification system she advocated for was enacted, although there are still issues with that in my opinion as they are not as timely as they should be. The state has given domestic violence victims an option to use a P.O Box run by the state so perpetrators cannot find a victim's address. And, just a bill has been introduced that would allow victims who file for restraining orders and share a phone plan with their abusers to ask to have full control of that phone, account and number.
While the state, and the country, was no where close to where it needed to be at addressing domestic violence in 1989 and surely needed to take further actions as a lifelong Hoosier I have to wonder if Lisa's death also did not create another issue. At the time of Lisa's death I was a junior in high school. For the next decade or more domestic violence was getting the attention that it needed and while I know the saying “better safe than sorry” is a good way to look at things sometimes they can be taken too far. There was a long period of time in which if a woman called the police all she had to say was that a man had hit her and he would go to jail. There did not have to be any signs of marks or injuries, it was solely on the word of the woman. In fact, I had a police officer tell my ex husband that all I had to do was say the word that he had touched me and he would go to jail. Thankfully for my ex husband I am not the vengeful type and would have never lied to the officer just to get him in trouble. The idea behind it was good but there is always someone who is going to lie or take advantage of the way things are. And sadly, those accusations did not go both ways. If a man said a woman had hit him she was not always taken to jail. That had changed a bit over time and is becoming more fair.
Aside from the death of Lisa obviously, the thing that bothered me the most was Alan Matheney's mother's role in all of this. I attempted to see if Martha Matheney faced any charges for her actions but it does not seem she did although the prosecutor had said that they were looking into things at the time of Alan's trial. I try to tell myself that the era in which this happened was not one of cell phones so it is not like the second she knew they were headed up north that she had the ability to call someone from the car but she obviously would have had access once he left her at the friends house in Goshen. She was the one who signed him out of the prison but it is unclear if she or Alan drove the car away from the prison. If she was driving then she literally took him. She testified at his trial that she did not know he intended to harm Lisa and I find this hard to believe. It was testified by friends, family, even inmates that Alan spoke of hurting Lisa quite often. At the very least she knew when they got into the car that they were to be going to Indianapolis, which was south of the prison and they were headed north. Why did she not ask them where they were going or demand he stop the car knowing that she could be in trouble since she was the one who was in essence in charge of him while he was outside of prison? It was alleged that she had not informed Lisa of the furlough because she had previously informed her and Lisa had it stopped. Some allege that Martha was manipulated by Alan or even feared him but I find this as no excuse for her to have informed someone the second he left her in Goshen, where she knew they had no business being anyway. It is reasonable to believe that she knew where Lisa was located and that it was nearby. How did she not know that he would not harm her grandchildren too? I checked a few sites just to see if maybe she there were charges filed against her and they were lowered or something but I could not find anything on the sites that I have and this disturbs me.
Sadly, while it's been over twenty-five years since Lisa's death there are still many issues when it comes to the law and domestic violence. Of course it got more attention after her murder but just like so many other things in life it did not seem to last long. Everyone was outraged but then that waned. As I stated earlier it was a drastic answer to the “Why doesn't she just leave?” comments we heard, and seemingly hear again today. She did leave; she did get away; she did start over, but the laws did not protect her, even from inside the prison.