An Indian American man was arrested and charged with 1st degree pre-meditated murder July 28 in Coral Springs, Florida, for allegedly stabbing his wife multiple times and running over her body with his car.
Philip Mathew, 34, is currently being held without bail in Broward County, Florida jail for the murder of Merin Joy, who was 26 at the time of her death. In Florida, a sentence for first degree murder is a life sentence without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. First degree murder charges are invoked when the crime is pre-meditated; Mathew is believed to have been lying in wait for at least 45 minutes outside Broward Health Coral Springs, the hospital where Joy worked as a nurse.
The couple are from Kerala and have a two-year-old daughter, Nora, who was in Kottayam, Kerala at the time of the attack, with her grandparents. Joy and Mathew were no longer living together; the suspect had been living in Wixon, Michigan, and doing a series of odd jobs.
According to a police report forwarded by the Coral Springs Police Department to India-West, at about 7:30 a.m. July 28, Coral Springs Dispatch received a call from Broward Health Coral Springs. The call came in as a possible hit and run. Officers arriving at the scene found Joy lying on the ground with multiple stab wounds throughout her body. Though she was just outside the hospital where she worked, her wounds were too severe to be treated there. Joy was instead transported to another hospital and pronounced dead about an hour later.
Coral Springs Detective Jeff Payne obtained a statement from a witness who said she heard Joy screaming “help me,” multiple times and saw the suspect attacking the victim. The witness told Payne that Mathew then got into his car and ran over Joy’s body before fleeing the scene.
Another witness who tried to intervene told Payne that when he attempted to grab Mathew, the alleged killer swung a knife at him.
Hospital security provided police with footage of the incident. In the video, Mathew is shown driving up to Joy’s car and blocking her in. He then went to her car and pulled her out of it. The footage shows Mathew repeatedly striking Joy and dragging her through the parking lot. A witness took a photo of Mathew’s license plate.
Coral Springs Police Officer Nicole Hildebrant traveled with Joy in the ambulance, according to the police report. The victim was still conscious and identified the attacker as her husband Mathew. She repeated his name a second time. Joy’s exchange with Hildebrant was captured on the officer’s body camera.
The police report stated that Joy had called police on July 19 to report that she was going through a very difficult divorce and that Mathew was posting messages online wanting her to come back to him. Police did not go out to the residence to investigate. In 2018, police responded to a domestic disturbance at the couple’s residence as Mathew made threats to kill Joy and himself.
Local publications in India reported that Mathew and Joy had traveled to Kerala in December. Joy’s parents had allegedly filed a domestic violence order against Mathew, but a friend of the suspect told the Sun Sentinel that was not true. Mathew returned to the U.S. on Jan. 10; Joy returned on Jan. 29, leaving her baby daughter Nora with her parents.
ON Manorama reports that — hours before she was killed — Joy made a video call to her family, speaking to her mother, father, sister, and Nora.
Joice John Madasseril, a friend of Mathew, told the Sun Sentinel that the suspect had called him on July 27 night, saying that Joy had told him he could never again see her daughter, “hurting Philip’s heart.”
Hospital staff who knew Joy and Mathew said the couple was undergoing a difficult divorce and that Joy feared for her safety.
The Malayalee Association of Tampa, Florida, has organized a funeral for Joy, to be held Aug. 1.