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North Carolina man confesses to 1997 Bullhead City killing

PHOENIX — A cold homicide case has been solved after a man, apparently racked with guilt, drove across the country to confess killing an Arizona woman in Bullhead City with a flashlight more than 15 years ago.

Matthew Gibson has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after driving from North Carolina to Arizona to turn himself in to face charges that a prosecutor said wouldn’t have come without the 55-year-old’s surrender.

“His name was never in any report. We didn’t even know he existed,” Mohave County assistant prosecutor Jace Zack said Tuesday.

“I am 100 percent certain that he would not have been caught if he didn’t turn himself in,” he said.

The 1997 death of Barbara Leone Brown in the Colorado River town of Bullhead City in western Arizona has agonized Gibson, who has found religion, his attorney Ron Gilleo said.

“He just wanted it off his chest,” Gilleo said.

Gibson provided a written statement to authorities last month. “Only the good Lord knows what that night was all about, but I’m deeply sorry for that night,” he wrote. “For years now, I have weeped (sic) over this and it has been heavy on my soul.”

The feeling propelled Gibson to drive about 1,800 miles this summer from Vilas, North Carolina, to Winslow, Arizona, where he went to police.

Brown’s body was found years ago in thick bushes along the river. She had multiple skull fractures. Her husband had reported her missing several days earlier.

Gibson provided information that fit Brown’s death, according to Bullhead City police. Authorities said he told them he and the 38-year-old woman had argued, that he hit her with a flashlight and dumped her body after she died from the injury.

The two weren’t romantically involved, Zack said.

Mohave County Superior Court judge Rick Williams sentenced Gibson on Friday.

Gibson surrendered in June to police in Winslow, about 200 miles east of Kingman, where the woman lived.

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