Man Caught in Desert Dragnet Pleads Not Guilty in Slaying

Neill F. Matzen, who eluded a police dragnet for a week last month, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he murdered a St. Joseph Hospital nurse.

Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Patrick K. Donahue said Friday’s court proceeding lasted only a few minutes and the case was set for a preliminary hearing Feb. 22.

“The guy didn’t open his mouth,” Donahue said of the 36-year-old tow-truck operator who is charged with the Nov. 24 beating death of Donna J. Connaty, 34, in her Buena Park home.

Nine days after the murder, Matzen killed the woman’s estranged husband, Richard Connaty, 38, during a trailer-park shoot-out in which authorities said he acted in self-defense.


Matzen sparked a police dragnet through the desert when he fled after writing a letter to a newspaper saying that he had killed Connaty for a promised $15,000 from her husband.

He was captured Dec. 14 inside a shed in Fontana after hitchhiking through Riverside County and then hiding out in a storm drain.