Jeffrey Mathews made history at the age of 23 by being the only person to blow up a United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) office on American soil. The firebombing turned the national spotlight on Fort Myers.
Cocaine to Go
Jeffrey Matthews sat at the top of the Fort Myers Beach cocaine trade, controlling the lucrative business from his pizzeria, Andretti’s. Special customers could get cocaine to go.
(left to right) HEADLINE: Final plea agreements send Matthews case to United States judge; a pipebomb filled with gunpowder and bullets was detonated inside the
United States Drug Enforcement Agency office on New Brittany Boulevard in Fort Myers; HEADLINE: Guilty plea entered in DEA bombing case
Matthews had been under investigation for several months, as the violence, murders, and shootings related to the drug trade made front page news. In February, the DEA and the Lee County Sherriff’s Department raided Andretti’s, removing boxes of evidence. Matthews made phone calls to the DEA, threatening to damage agency property. On March 15, 1990, Matthews was indicted, along with three other people, on charges of distributing cocaine, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Two days later, at 2 a.m., the DEA office on New Brittany Boulevard exploded when a pipe bomb packed with gunpowder and bullets attached to a five-gallon gas can was tossed inside. The spectacular early morning blaze burned the DEA offices to the ground. Firefighters couldn’t get near the building because more than 300,000 rounds of ammunition were stored inside. The fire also destroyed evidence in a number of drug cases and turned the national spotlight on Fort Myers.
After the bombing, Matthews, who had amassed a large cache of powerful weapons, disappeared.
(top row, left to right) HEADLINE: Drugs, deaths likely target of grand jury; HEADLINE: 'All of a sudden, cops were everywhere'; HEADLINE: No bail, 'I fear for my life'; (bottom row) HEADLINE: Whew! The capture brings a sigh of relief
Three weeks later, a conversation with a person in Jacksonville led to Matthews’ capture while he used a pay phone in Orlando. He eventually pleaded guilty to federal charges of running a continuing criminal enterprise involved in drug dealing and a murder and was sentenced to life in prison. He could have faced a federal death penalty if he didn’t reach a plea agreement. Matthews also pleaded guilty to two state charges of second-degree murder and one of being an accessory after the fact to murder and was sentenced to 100 years in prison to be served at the same time as the federal sentence.
HEADLINE: Matthews please guilty to second-degree murder (left); Jeffrey Matthews ' inmate progress report (right)