Man suspected of killing woman as she taught son to drive appears in court

MILWAUKEE (WISN/CNN) - Thirty-five-year-old Matthew Wilks has a long criminal record and wasn’t even supposed to be driving, much less carrying a gun.

Thirty-five-year-old Matthew Wilks has a long criminal record and wasn't even supposed to be driving, much less carrying a gun. (Source: WISN/CNN)

Under heavy guard, Wilks was escorted into court Thursday, charged with first-degree intentional homicide in last Friday’s shooting death of Tracey Smith.

She was a sergeant at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility and was off-duty teaching her son to drive when their car was hit by a minivan police say was driven by Wilks.

"In this case, he's facing life imprisonment,” Commissioner David Sweet said in court. “The allegations in here exhibit a particularly senseless crime."

According to the criminal complaint, Smith's son told police a gold minivan turning from the wrong lane struck the front of their car.

He told police his mother was upset and was yelling at the driver of the van. He then heard the driver of the van state "b****, I'll kill you," pointed a gun at her and fired one shot, police said.

He told investigators he heard his mother say, "He shot me," before collapsing to the ground.

Wilks' van was seen on surveillance video leaving the scene. Police were able to view the plate and a witness picked him out of a lineup.

Police arrested him Saturday night.

Authorities have called it a case of road rage. In court, Commissioner Sweet kept returning to the same word: “Senseless.”

"Just the senseless loss of life here as alleged, over what appears to be a minor traffic accident," Sweet stressed.

Wilks was also charged with possession of a firearm by a felon. When police searched his home after he was arrested, they said they found a safe with a large amount of cocaine, other drugs and a loaded handgun.

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