When DeAndre Matthews, a gay 19-year-old, went missing on Feb. 7, his mother knew something was wrong.
Danielle Matthews used her SUV's tracking function and located the vehicle that her son borrowed on a Brooklyn, New York, street about 10 minutes from where she and her son lived. There was a dark tinge on the inside of the windows. She called the police.
"When the police opened the door, smoke was coming out of my back seat," Danielle Matthews told ABC News. "I knew my son was gone from that moment."
A few hours later, police responded to a 911 call about a body on the freight train tracks near Nostrand Avenue in Flatbush, just a few miles away from where the SUV was found. Police identified the body as DeAndre Matthews. There were significant burns throughout his body, a gunshot wound in his head and signs of smoke inhalation, according to the police report. He was pronounced dead at the scene by EMS.
DeAndre's cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head with perforation of the skull and brain, according to the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The manner of death was a homicide.
The circumstances surrounding DeAndre Matthews' death are currently under investigation. No arrests have been made, according to police.
Danielle Matthews believes her son’s killing was a hate crime because of the severity of his injuries and the fact that he was gay. She also believes it's possible that he was introduced to his killer on the internet because he sometimes met new acquaintances online.
"DeAndre is so gullible. My baby trusted everybody and I hate that about him," Danielle Matthews said. "DeAndre thought nobody would harm him."
The day before his death, DeAndre Matthews went to work at BUGGY service center TLC, a Brooklyn-based car rental company, according to company owner Jeremy Moskowitz. DeAndre had started working there in January and was already well-liked by his colleagues. He left work that afternoon, according to Moskowitz.
Danielle Matthews said her son asked to borrow her SUV later that day. He drove off at approximately 5:45 p.m., according to his mother. That was the last time she heard from him.
"I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m lost. That was my first child. He was my first true love. He taught me how to be a mother," Danielle Matthews said. "So, to them killers, they have no idea what they did."
DeAndre Matthews loved being around his big extended family and playing with his younger sister and stepbrother, according to his mother. He enjoyed driving and attended SUNY Broome Community College where he was studying criminal justice. He wanted to help people.
"He felt he could have made things better in the world," Danielle Matthews said. "But he's still going to make it better because we’re going to keep DeAndre’s name alive. We’re going to keep fighting for DeAndre."