Police: Mechanic killed customer with hammer before shooting him, setting him on fire

BAYTOWN, Texas — A Texas mechanic confessed last week to killing a customer with a hammer, wrapping the man’s body in plastic and dumping it beneath a bridge before shooting him in the head and setting him on fire, a criminal complaint alleges.

Cameron Wilson Spencer, 39, of Baytown, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Jerad Mattingly. He was booked Friday into the Harris County Jail, where he remained Monday in lieu of $100,000 bond.

Mattingly, 41, was reported missing Oct. 16 by his wife, according to Harris County court records. A criminal complaint stated that Mattingly’s badly decomposed remains were discovered Oct. 30 under a bridge in neighboring Chambers County.

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Mattingly’s wife, Kathleen Wilkinson, told Chambers County deputies that Mattingly had taken his Nissan 350Z -- which was later found abandoned about a mile from their home -- to Spencer’s Auto Repair in Baytown on Oct. 15 to get work done. She never saw him again.

"His phone was off, he didn't reply to my messages and I knew something was wrong," Wilkinson told KPRC Channel 2 in Houston.

Wilkinson told the deputies that Mattingly had prior conflicts with the owner of the shop, who detectives soon identified as Spencer, the complaint said. She told Channel 2 that Mattingly had been in and out of the shop as Spencer tried to fix the engine on the sports car.

A Chambers County detective investigating Mattingly’s disappearance went to Spencer’s home-based shop Oct. 22 and spoke to Spencer, who initially told the detective that Mattingly had left the shop around 7:30 p.m. or shortly thereafter Oct. 15, after the work on his car was complete, and that he had not seen him since. According to the complaint, a second detective spoke to Spencer two days later, at which time the detective learned that Spencer’s personal vehicle was a gray Honda Odyssey.

The detectives obtained surveillance camera footage from nearby businesses, which showed Mattingly’s Nissan leaving Spencer’s shop around 8:15 p.m. Oct. 15 -- with Spencer’s Odyssey right behind it, the complaint said.

Investigators brought Spencer’s wife, Samantha Spencer, in for an interview last Monday, Oct. 29, at which time she told them that her husband told her beforehand that he planned to kill Mattingly when he came to the shop Oct. 15.

“Samantha stated Cameron told her to leave with their children and don’t come back until he called her,” the criminal complaint read.

Investigators said Samantha Spencer told them her husband called her back to the house around three hours later, at which time he met her in the parking lot of the shop and had her follow him in their Odyssey as he abandoned Mattingly’s vehicle.

The detectives also interviewed Samantha Spencer’s father, Steven Harold, who told them that his son-in-law had confessed to him that he killed Mattingly by hitting him on the head with a hammer, the complaint said.

Read the entire criminal complaint against Cameron Spencer below.

Cameron Spencer Criminal Complaint by c_bonvillian on Scribd

La Porte Police Department investigators called Harris County detectives Tuesday and told them that remains had been found under the Fred Hartman Bridge, where workers looking for access through a wooded area had stumbled upon them. The bridge, which crosses the Houston Ship Channel, connects Baytown to the city of La Porte.

Harris County detectives went to the scene and saw that the body, which had been wrapped in plastic and burned, matched Mattingly’s long hair and silver body piercing, the criminal complaint said. An autopsy completed Wednesday showed a gunshot wound on the top of the victim’s skull, and the pathologist, who recovered a small-caliber bullet from the remains, classified the victim’s death as a homicide.

Cameron Spencer called Chambers County investigators Thursday and said he wanted to talk to them about Mattingly’s death, the complaint said.

“Cameron stated he hit Jerad Mattingly on the head with a hammer, causing Jerad to collapse onto the floor,” the document read. “Cameron stated he checked Jerad’s pulse and realized Jerad was deceased. Cameron stated he then wrapped Jerad with plastic and duct tape and used an engine lift to load Jerad’s body into the bed of a truck.”

Mattingly’s body remained in the truck at the shop as Cameron and Samantha Spencer abandoned Mattingly’s car, the complaint said. When they returned in their own van, Cameron Spencer told investigators, he drove the truck across the Fred Hartman Bridge into La Porte and dumped Mattingly’s body on the side of the road.

“Cameron stated he then shot Jerad in the head to make it look like something else had caused his death,” the complaint stated. “Cameron stated he then poured gas on Jerad’s body and lit him on fire.”

After the interview, Cameron Spencer rode with the detectives to the spot where he dumped the victim’s body, the court document said.

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The criminal complaint did not offer a motive for the slaying, but someone identifying himself as "Jerad" posted a complaint in May on a website called advising customers to stay away from Spencer's shop.

In the complaint, the customer, who appears to have been Mattingly, wrote that Spencer and his mechanic charged him more than $2,000 and did not fix all the problems his 350Z was experiencing.

Spencer and Mattingly appear to have gone back and forth angrily several times, with Mattingly accusing Spencer of attacking him on a personal level and Spencer arguing that Mattingly wanted him to fix issues that he had not been paid to fix.

The argument appeared to have died down on the website in May, but the irate customer returned to the website one final time -- on the day of the homicide.

"Well, it's now October, and the issues that I have had with my car I picked up from Spencer's Auto are still continuing to show," the customer wrote Oct. 15 before going on to say that the problems with his car would ultimately cost him another $7,500 or more. He also accused Spencer of stealing his engine and replacing it with a worn-out engine from another sports car like his.

“I picked the car up in March 2018, as of October 2018, Cameron continues to give me the runaround, refuses to double check his work, and wants me to take down my consumer complaints.”

Nothing more appeared on the website after Mattingly’s last post.

Wilkinson told Channel 2 that her best friend was taken from her in the slaying.

“I just hope they throw the book at him and let him rot,” she said of Spencer.

Spencer had a previous conviction in  2013 in San Jacinto County for aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, according to court records. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to four years on deferred adjudication.

His deferred adjudication was terminated successfully last year, the records showed.