The Murder of Matthew Cote

Matthew Cote was born to parents, Paula and Michael Cote. He had a brother, a sister and two step sisters. He grew up in the small New England town of Middleboro, MA. He had moved out, and was living in Kingston with his girlfriend, Jessica Brunell, and her young daughter. He was a flooring contractor that worked for his father’s business.

According to court records, August 13, 2003, around 2 pm Matthew Cote received a call from Russell Freitas at home, and Freitas asked him to come to his house to help him with some random tasks, like starting a dirt bike. Reports indicate Freitas also stated he had pills that he wanted Matt to sell. Matt broke his wrist in 2002 and was struggling with an addiction to Oxycontin, which he reportedly purchased from this Freitas character, a friend Matt had known for a long time. Freitas, involved in an accident in 1997 that left him a quadriplegic, was prescribed Oxycontin pills to control his pain. It is believed he used only a small amount of these pills and sold the rest.

Matt left home in his green pick-up for Russell’s house about 2:30 pm. Arriving reportedly, around 3pm, because he spoke briefly to Jamie Peterson, who was Freitas’s girlfriend and caregiver before she left to cash her check. When he had not returned home in time for dinner, Jessica began calling him, but could not reach him. She continued to call him throughout the night but was unable to reach him.

On August 14, 2003, Matt did not show up to meet his father for work when he was scheduled to arrive at 8:30 am. Later, his girlfriend went to the Kingston police station and filed a missing person report. Over the course of the next couple of days, Jessica reportedly also went around putting up “missing person” fliers in the entire surrounding area in the businesses and at the train stations. I went to school with Matt, and I remember seeing these fliers was when I first became aware he was missing and which is also when I initially started following this case.

Sunday, August 17, 2003, at approximately 10:00 a.m., charred remains were discovered by fisherman. They noticed the completely burned and unrecognizable body inside the backseat of a burned out truck, face down.

Autopsy would later find that the victim reportedly died of three to five wounds directly to his heart, one to the left lung, and two to his stomach area by a blunt item like a screwdriver before the truck was set on fire. It is said that Freitas kept pictures of the burned pick-up truck where Cote’s body was found, and sometimes used it as a screensaver on his computer. It is believed Matt owed Russell Freitas $300, which was the motivation for the murder. Seriously… just $300. Matt Cote was just 26 years old at the time of his death.

After Matt’s remains were discovered, a witness who watched the news reports came to police to report rather strange interactions with Freitas at times surrounding the case. He stated that 8:00 p.m. that evening that Matt went missing, he received a telephone call from Freitas, who wanted him to help him pick someone up. Freitas instructed him to drive through backroads, while Freitas was repeatedly calling someone. During the telephone call, Freitas told the person on the phone to “Make sure the duck is cooked well, well, well done.” This witness reports that after some time, Russell asked his friend to stop the car and they picked up Darren Caswell, who was dressed all in black. Caswell was picked up close to the spot where the victim’s body was later discovered. Police had evidence that placed Caswell’s cell phone within a quarter mile of the crime scene.

On July 14, 2007, Freitas died at 39 years old. The case became a cold case despite the evidence. Freitas may have been a driving force in this case but he could never physically have struck the fatal blows himself due to his physical condition, so at this point, the murderer was still free and Frietas could not be held responsible for his role in the crime. The State Police Fusion Unit reviewed the collected evidence and were able to put together a case against Darren Caswell.

On October 5, 2009, Darren Caswell was officially charged with first degree murder. The jury rejected the charge of murder in the first degree and later convicted Mr. Caswell of murder in the 2nd degree. He lost his bid for appeal in 2014, a second appeal in 2020 and is currently serving out a life sentence for the murder in the state correctional facility in Milford, MA.

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