Who Executed Matt Flores in 1994?

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In March 1994, 26-year-old Matt Flores was shot in the back of the head at close range while exiting his vehicle in the parking lot of Applied Materials in Santa Clara, California. Even though there were more than 20 people in the parking lot at the time of the murder, no one saw his killer, and the case remains unsolved.

About the Case

Matt Flores was born and raised in Rhode Island. In 1990, he married the love of his life, Denise LePage, and the couple welcomed a daughter, Danielle, in 1993.

In February 1994, he accepted a position with Applied Materials in Silicon Valley, and soon after, Matt and his family relocated to Santa Clara, California.

Matt worked in Building 12 at Applied Materials, located at 3225 Oakmead Village Drive, Santa Clara. He was to train there for a few months before transferring to the Dallas office where he would be based.

Prior to his new job, Matt served in the Army for four years before being discharged a month before moving to California.

The Murder

At 8:14 a.m. on March 24, 1994, an Applied Materials employee was sitting in her car in the parking lot of Building 12 listening to a program on the radio when she heard a popping sound. Immediately, she turned around in time to see a man slump to the ground. She got out of her car and ran over to the man.

The driver’s side door was open and the man was kneeling on the ground, his head and shoulders resting against the open door. The man was dressed in gray slacks, black shoes and a dress shirt. A briefcase was beside him. Papers bound with a clip and stained with blood were by his open hand.

The man was lifeless and blood was oozing from the back of his head. Hysterical, the witness approached other employees in the parking lot for help and to call 911.

A minute after the murder, at 8:15 a.m., Gary Robertson, the man who hired Matt, heard a commotion and opened his office door to find a frantic employee saying someone had been shot in the parking lot.

Gary immediately went to the scene. He saw the female witness sobbing next to the kneeling body of a man. When she saw Gary, she screamed, “his wallet, his wallet, his wallet!” Gary took the wallet, flipped it open and saw Matt Flores’ driver’s license. Just then, a gust of wind blew back the jacket, and Gary saw Matt Flores’ face. At 8:24 a.m. Gary called Denise Flores to inform her of her husband’s murder.

Matt Flores had only been at the new job for nine days.

The Investigation

Police arrive at the scene within four minutes of the 911 call. Upon examination of the body, it was obvious the victim had been shot at point blank range to the back of the head.

The scene itself was clean – no shell casing, no signs of a struggle, and no murder weapon. Matt most likely never saw his killer.

Despite getting to the victim immediately after the shot rang out, the female witness claimed she never saw the killer. In fact, not one person in the parking lot at the time said they saw the killer.

Several surveillance cameras were set up in the parking lot, so police began reviewing tapes. To their dismay, not one camera caught the actual murder. Turns out, Matt’s car was parked in a blind spot out of range of the cameras. However, one particular vehicle did stand out.

At 7:52, a dark Ford Explorer begins circling the lot. The tapes show it crossing east, then turning into a parking stall near the driveway entrance, windshield facing directly toward the camera.

A white sedan (a 2-door Ford Probe) resembling Flores’ car enters the picture and passes behind the Explorer. The Explorer pulls out and follows. Almost immediately, it comes back, circling a second time before settling back in the same stall.

A few minutes pass. Flores’ car appears. By the next camera image the Explorer is gone. Ninety seconds later Flores is shot. Twenty seconds after that the Explorer drives in front of the camera again, this time headed for the exit (Mercury News).

The footage was grainy and police were never able to get a license plate number or clearly see the driver. Police issued a public plea for help in locating the Explorer and the driver, but it produced zero results.

Scene above recreated for Unsolved Mysteries. Not actual footage.

Authorities interviewed friends and family of Matt’s to establish a motive for the senseless killing. They talked to former Army personnel who worked with Matt, but they found no reason anyone would want to murder Matt. He had no known enemies and was a very well-liked person.

For at least two years after the murder, police and Applied Materials, where the female witness still worked, concealed her identity. Every time Matt’s name was mentioned, the woman broke into crying fits.

During the course of the investigation, police interviewed  nearly 1,000 people across four states – California, Texas, Georgia and Rhode Island. They studied 2,500 questionnaires filled out by Applied Materials employees and spent more than $100,000 in one of the largest homicide investigations by the Santa Clara Police Department. However, the killer of Matt Flores remains unknown.

Theories

  1. Matt was murdered by someone from Applied Materials.
  2. Someone from Matt’s military past killed him.
  3. A case of mistaken identity

Theory #1

A few months before Matt’s murder in the parking lot at Applied Materials, another employee was found dead. On August 23, 1993, Han Suk Yoon, the top manger of Applied Materials Korean division, was found stabbed to death in in a room at Residence Inn Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California, a little more than a mile from the company. He died from multiple stab wounds. At the scene, police found a pair of women’s panties T-shirt covered in blood on the bathroom floor and a fingerprint in blood on the telephone. The man’s credit cards and rental car were missing.

However, police tracked down the 21-year-old nanny in New York, and she confessed to killing Yoon.

While this was clearly not related to Matt’s murder, the murder of another Applied Materials employee did raise questions in Matt’s case: Did someone from Applied Materials kill or hire someone to kill Matt Flores? Why did Gary call Denise to inform her of Matt’s death instead of police? Why were there no witnesses in the parking lot who could describe the Ford Explorer in detail as well as the driver? Why did only one person walk over to Matt’s car to help? The 911 call was made 11 minutes after the female witness discovered Matt. Why was the call not made immediately?

Theory #2 

In 1993, Sergeant Nicholas Gange was under Matt’s command in the 24th Forward Support Battalion. Gange was Chief of the Electronics Maintenance Section at the time. However, the duties proved to be too much for him so Matt appointed him Barracks Manager instead.

Six weeks later in April 1993 and 11 months before Matt’s murder, Gange disappeared and was declared AWOL. His wallet and keys were found on his bunk, but he had vanished into thin air.

Ten months later and two weeks before Matt moved to California, Gange’s body was found in woods about a mile from the barracks.

Originally thought to be a hit-and-run, three months later, a special agent with the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division made a public appeal for help in determining how Gange died. Preliminary results from the autopsy indicated he had suffered a skull fracture consistent with a blow to the head, but no damage to the rest of the body.

However, a medical examiner in the special investigations unit of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, in Washington, found differently. His report showed Gange had fractures in seven left ribs, fractures in three right ribs, a fractured sternum and six fractured vertebrae, most likely from blunt trauma to the chest. He made no mention of a skull fracture.

Army officials refused to explain the discrepancy between the two reports.

Strangely enough, Matt Flores’ military records disappeared. Asked for an official copy, the Army’s National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis responded it could not locate Flores’ service file, and could not determine if it had been removed, misplaced or destroyed, according to a 2016 Mercury News article.

Theory #3

Police thought it possible that Matt’s murder may have been a case of mistaken identity due partly to the fact that in the surveillance video, the Ford Explorer initially follows a white Ford Probe; Matt was driving a white Chevy Corsica rental. However, if this was a case of mistaken identity, police have no idea who the original target may have been, and there was not another murder of an Applied Materials employee after Matt’s.

Life After Matt

Denise Flores relocated back to the east coast with her daughter, Danielle. She never remarried and is now a photographer. In 2016, Danielle graduated from college with honors. That same year, police reissued a $100,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest in Matt’s case.

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

If you watch the news video above, Matt’s mother, Ellen believes this was a hired hit job, and I kind of agree with that. The questions are: who hired the hit and why? I do think it’s possible the killer had a military background.

I believe the female witness who heard the gunshot and went over to Matt DID SEE the killer and was too scared to come forward. There’s no way she could NOT have seen the killer. She turned toward the sound of the shot almost immediately in time to see Matt slump to the ground. She had to see the killer and the Explorer. There’s no way the killer could get away without being seen by her or somebody else.

Matt was shot in broad daylight in a busy company parking lot as employees were arriving for work. You know someone saw something, and you know the female witness saw the killer. Why else would she cry every time Matt’s name is mentioned?

Why did no other employee in the parking lot at the time come forward?  You know someone else heard the shot, at the very least. Why were none of these people able to describe the Explorer and the driver inside? At the very least, they should have seen the color of the Explorer, in my opinion. I just find it very strange that we have only one witness out of over 20 people in that parking lot.

It is definitely possible this was a military-related murder. Matt may have known something about Gange’s death or both he and Gange knew or saw something they should not have back in Georgia. They were murdered within months of one another, and his military group was in California at the time of Matt’s  murder. Let’s not forget the disappearance of Matt’s military records. Records just don’t vanish into thin air. What was in those records the Army didn’t want others to see?

I’m leaning towards theory #2. Matt had only been in California for a few days so he would not have known many people. It was not enough time to make enemies, and from what I read, Matt was never around anything or any part of a secluded area at AM where he would have heard or seen something he shouldn’t have. He was only training.

I do not believe it was a case of mistaken identity. One, the Probe and Corsica were made by different manufacturers and they looked nothing alike. Matt’s car was a 4-door, not a 2-door. Pictured below are a Ford Probe and a Chevy Corsica similar to the ones in the surveillance videos. Both are from 1994. Some Corsicas did not have the black trim, instead had white. Matt’s car had black trim. As you can see, the two cars do not look alike at all.

Two, if this was a case of mistaken identity,  what happened to the hit? You’d think there would have been another murder of an AM employee – the intended target – and there wasn’t. Not only that, but if you were hired to kill a man, wouldn’t you make damn sure what your victim looked like and what he drove before you pulled the trigger?

Here’s what I think happened. The killer saw the first car and thought it was Matt, but when Matt pulled into the parking lot and passed behind the parked Explorer, the driver realized it was him, and then pulled out to kill his intended target – Matt Flores.

Whoever killed Matt knew the time he arrived at work. But why kill him in a busy parking lot in broad daylight and risk being seen? The killer wasn’t worried about witnesses or being caught on cameras, that’s for sure. Either the killer was ballsy or there are reasons he did not fear being seen by witnesses or cameras (maybe theory #2?).

I’ve seen other theories like road rage or the husband/boyfriend of a lover, but I don’t buy into either of those at all.I believe the case would have been solved by now if either one of those was the motive. Not only that, the Explorer arrived before Matt, not after.

I realize the driver of the Explorer may not have anything to do with the murder, but I’m convinced he did.

One of my questions in this case is this: why haven’t police released the surveillance videos to the public? On Unsolved Mysteries, Robert Stack says police asked them not to show the footage. That is why the show recreated the parking lot footage. I tried finding the real footage with no luck. I just think that’s strange especially when the murder was almost 25 years ago.

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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