FORT WORTH, Texas — It’s been five years.
“Sometimes it feels like it’s been five years,” Tracy Matheson said. “Sometimes, it feels like it’s been five days, and then sometimes it feels like 500 years.”
On April 10, 2017, Matheson got a phone call from her daughter’s boss. Molly Matheson hadn’t shown up for her shift at work.
“It was concerning,” Tracy Matheson said. “She was supposed to be there at [1 p.m.]. Molly was usually early.”
Matheson said she called a friend who lived across the street from her daughter's garage apartment in Fort Worth. The friend told her Molly’s car was parked outside. Tracy Matheson immediately got in her car and drove there.
The door was unlocked, so she went inside.
When Tracy Matheson didn’t see her daughter, she went around to the backyard to call her name and keep looking until she realized she hadn’t checked Molly’s bathroom.
“That’s where I found her body … on the floor of her shower,” Tracy Matheson told WFAA.
It’s a moment she said will be etched in her memory forever.
In March, almost five years after Molly was found, Reginald Kimbro pled guilty to raping and killing 22-year-old Molly Jane Matheson. His trial was scheduled for March 22 after being delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tracy Matheson and her family got the news just days before.
“I received word the Wednesday prior that he was willing to plead guilty to all charges in exchange for life with no parole and no appeals,” Matheson said. “This kind of resolution was really the best resolution … one we really hadn’t considered."
Kimbro also pled guilty to raping and killing 36-year-old Megan Getrum, who went missing from Plano just days after Molly Matheson was murdered. He also pled guilty to four other sexual assaults involving women in other Texas counties.
“There was an admission of guilt for all the cases,” Tracy Matheson said. “That was really important that everyone was included in that.”
Matheson said Kimbro and her daughter had been in a relationship in the past. She added that she’d even met him once when he came to her house.
After Molly’s and Megan’s death, Tracy Matheson started digging. She found a pattern. She found what WFAA discovered in 2019 during an investigation into multiple sexual assault accusations against Kimbro years before he murdered Molly that never resulted in an arrest.
Timeline Kimbro sexual assault investigation:
“When I kind of pieced all of that together, I was like ‘Wait, she could be alive had someone done their job, had someone believed,’” Tracy Matheson said.
Tracy Matheson also researched and became an expert on how sexual assault is handled in the criminal justice system, which she called “broken,” as well as how victims are treated once they come forward with their stories.
“Sexual assault is treated very poorly within the system and beyond the system,” Tracy Matheson told WFAA. “We, as a community, as a society, do not support the victims of sexual assault the way that we should."
So, she got to work.
Matheson created Project Beloved to educate and advocate for victims of sexual assault. There are a number of initiatives the organization started, in addition to advocacy work.
The group has installed dozens of soft interview rooms in law enforcement offices across the country so survivors have a comfortable space to tell their stories, which is the first step in getting justice in prosecuting their attackers.
Project Beloved also creates bundles to gift to survivors who have to go through the process of getting tested for a rape kit. The bundles include clothes to change into and other comfort items.
There's also a scholarship for social work students at the University of Arkansas, where Molly attended before moving back to Ft. Worth.
“We’ve awarded six scholarships in the amount of $2,200 each in honor of her 22 years," Matheson said.
Over the years, Matheson said she's heard from survivors who've received a bundle and even law enforcement who've seen the difference in the victim interview process while using the soft interview rooms.
“It makes me feel good," Matheson said. "It's kind of a wink...maybe a wink from Molly that we're on the right track. That the work we're doing is mattering."
Kimbro's sentencing closed a chapter for Matheson and her family.
“I don’t live in that limbo state any longer, and that feels good," Matheson said. "That I don’t have to go to sleep at night and wonder what it’s going to be like...how is it going to end…you know that kind of thing. That’s really good.”
Now, she has more room to fully dive into her next chapter: fighting for the end of stories like Molly's.
Victim impact statements
On Tuesday, March 22, the families of victims gave impact statements. Dozens of people gathered in the courtroom, and an overflow courtroom, to hear what the victims and families had to say to Kimbro.
You can watch the impact statements on WFAA's YouTube page here:
“I honestly have nothing to say to you,” said David Matheson, Molly's father. “You don’t exist. You don’t occupy any space in my head. You never will. You are the definition of a coward.”
Tracy Matheson said she will "spend the rest of my days making sure that this battle is won," referring to the conversation about sexual assault and empowering the voices of victim's voices.
Diane Getrum, Megan’s mother, held up a picture of her daughter for the courtroom to see. She told stories of her daughter’s adventures and her missed opportunities and ended by telling Kimbro that her life is too short to spend any more time focusing on him.
"Our decision to accept your guilty plea, allowing you to avoid the death penalty, has absolutely nothing to do with mercy. You have done nothing to deserve that. Instead, it has everything to do with silencing your voice. No longer will you be able to sit behind the lie of innocence," Tracy Matheson told Kimbro as she looked him in the eyes. "The light – Molly’s brilliant, joy-filled, bright light – will shine over the darkness brought by your cowardly decisions. … Her light is the fuel for the revolution.”