HS coach dies from brain injury

Chris Matthews remains in critical condition after being beaten in a restaurant parking lot.

January 31, 2011 8:26:15 PM PST
Charges have been filed against a man accused of attacking a high school coach outside a restaurant on Friday. The popular coach from a west Houston high school later died. This is a tough loss for the school. Coach Chris Matthews was a positive force in the lives of so many students here. Their hearts are heavy as they deal with this unexpected tragedy.

A community in mourning on what's become a truly sad day at Stratford High School.

"We call ourselves Stratford America," said Stratford High Principal Christopher Juntti. "Times like this test our resolve and our empathy for each other."

Outside the high school, a patchwork of flower bouquets and balloons has sprung up along the fence next to the soccer field -- the beginnings of a makeshift memorial in honor of Chris Matthews, a popular coach, teacher, mentor and friend to so many here.

"He's a great guy, a really cool guy," said one student. "Nice to everyone, always smiling."

Matthews died after sustaining a brain injury during a fall. The 33-year-old coach was attacked in the parking lot of a west Houston restaurant. Ronald Newman confronted and allegedly punched Matthews after Newman saw him in the parking lot with his wife. Prosecutors say he believed they were having an affair, though police say there's no evidence that such a relationship existed.

Newman's wife accompanied her husband to court Monday morning.

Grief counselors were at Stratford all day to help students and faculty cope.

"It's just so unthinkable that it could happen to someone just, in a minute, and be gone a few days later," said parent Missy Coward.

Newman and his wife have had rocky relationship in the past. In fact, they divorced at one point and then remarried. Newman is charged with aggravated assault. There's no word on when or if the charge will be upgraded.

Sam Maida, Jr., Newman's attorney, issued the following statement on his client's behalf:

    "Mr. Newman and his wife Laura and their entire family are devastated at this time and want to express that their thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Mathews, his family and the entire Stratford High School and local community. Due to the legal circumstances involved, we are unable to offer any other statements at this time."

Matthew's wife is also a teacher and coach at Stratford.