Today’s WTF news comes to you from the Nashville, Tennessee metropolitan area.
At 11:50 AM on Friday, October 23, 52-year-old Rebacca Greenwood called 911 to report that her 14-year-old son, Sayeed Neilson, appeared to be dead.
Sayeed was on the autism spectrum.
When Metro Nashville Police Department officers responded to the family’s home on Topeka Drive in Hermitage, Tennessee, Rebacca and her older son, Sayeed’s half-brother, 33-year-old David Matheny, they discovered that Sayeed was indeed beyond help, having died of apparent assault-related trauma. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
At first, Becky and David told investigators that Sayeed fell in the shower on Thursday and hit his head. David claimed he helped his younger brother stand and dry off before helping him get into bed. Becky told police that she and David checked on Sayeed repeatedly before the two went out for drinks at Trax, a gay bar on Ensley Boulevard in Nashville, where David proudly introduced his mother to his friends, or the “Fam,” as he posted on Facebook the next morning.
Becky and David told police they checked on Sayeed when they got home from the bar, and he was alive. The next morning, they said, they made a trip to the grocery store for cleaning products and to pick up fast food, then returned home and clean the house before finding Sayeed dead in his bedroom.
Based on Sayeed’s visible injuries, police didn’t believe for a second that his death was caused by a fall in the shower, so they brought the mother-son duo to the police station for additional questioning.
Eventually, Becky admitted to officers that she watched as David punched and kicked Sayeed and “stomped on his head” during a physical altercation between the two, and she claimed she asked David to stop beating his brother but then walked away before checking to see if he backed off. Has anyone polished her “Mom of the Year” trophy?
David admitted that he and his teenage brother had tussled, but he insisted Sayeed hadn’t been seriously injured. David stands about 6 feet 2 inches in height and weighs about 180 pounds, according to a family member.
Investigators believe the house-cleaning was an attempt to destroy evidence.
Both Rebacca Anne Greenwood and David Lee Matheny were a little after midnight on Saturday, October 24 and booked into Davidson County’s Correctional Development Center, where Becky was placed in the female unit and David was placed in the male unit, both of which are medium-security areas.
They have each been charged with one count each of criminal homicide, aggravated neglect of a child age 9 to 17, and tampering with evidence. They are being held without bond. At their arraignment hearing on Tuesday, October 27, a tentative trial date for both was scheduled to begin at 9:05 AM on Friday, November 13, 2020. Becky is currently represented by attorney Jonathan F. Wing; David does not appear to have an attorney at this time.
An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause and manner of Sayeed’s death.
Both Becky and David have minor criminal records. Becky has multiple convictions, some dating as far back as the ’80s, for driving with a suspended license, criminal trespass, prostitution, drug charges, and soliciting rides or business as a pedestrian.
David’s criminal history points squarely to a man with the utter inability to control his temper. According to the Tennessean, in December of 2014, he was charged with domestic assault and arrested after his ex-partner, James Villegas, told police David shoved a package of deli turkey in his mouth during an argument. An arrest affidavit in the matter states that David admitted to the attack. The charge was ultimately dismissed, but David was ordered to pay court costs.
In November of 2013, David was arrested after his ex-partner reported that David bit him in the forehead while the pair argued.
Just two months prior to that incident, David was convicted of assault and given a suspended sentence, spending a year on probation, on an assault charge. At the time, the family lived on Gillock Street, and evidently, David’s dog defecated in the house, so Don Neilson, David’s stepfather and Sayeed’s father, took the dog outside to a kennel. When David found out his dog was outside, he flipped his shit, jumped on Don, and hit him repeatedly before biting him on the forehead.
Why is that his go-to biting spot? How wide can this lunatic open his mouth? Can he unhinge his jaw like a snake!? But I digress.
James Villegas said he met Sayeed at age six and used to walk to the bus stop with him before school and help him with homework. He said David reached out to him prior to his arrest and told him Sayeed died from falling in the shower. James said he didn’t believe it, because he had lived with David’s physical abuse and anger. In fact, it was the reason they broke up.
James and David met in California before moving to Tennessee to be closer to David’s family. “I came to Tennessee with a black eye,” James said.
Becky’s sister, Rachel Duncan, spoke to NewsChannel5 Nashville, expressing shock and horror at the situation. “I mean, my sister didn’t even stop this,” she said. “She just went out for drinks. Who does that?”
Rachel talked about her nephew, saying Sayeed loved Star Wars, Halloween, the family’s dog, school, and sharks. “He was a sweetheart,” Rachel said of Sayeed, “and I practically raised him because my sister has some mental health issues, so I was always there to take care of them, and then they kind of pushed me out these last six months, and I feel like this shouldn’t have happened.”
Whenever she attempted to visit Sayeed, she said, David told her they had doctor’s appointments or were otherwise too busy for a visit.
According to Rachel, she also found out this week that her mother was abused in Becky’s house, as well. Rachel’s husband, James, helped Rachel take her mother to the hospital after Becky’s arrest. Rachel and James will be taking care of the elderly woman, as well as taking in the family dog Sayeed adored. She was not aware of the abuse going on in her sister’s home. “It was like a reign of terror here at this house, apparently, from what I’m finding out now,” she said.
Becky told her, Rachel said, that Sayeed “had fallen in the tub and bumped his head real hard. She just didn’t realize how bad it was.”
Multiple news stations interviewed neighbor Kevin Davis, who lived across the street and said he had witnessed some disturbing behavior from the family. “I have seen David kick the dog,” Kevin said, “and the little boy — Sayeed; that’s his name — told him not to, and David went off on Sayeed.”
Kevin found out about Sayeed’s death when he got home from work on Friday. “Sayeed never bothered anyone,” he said. “But the son, David — David was very aggressive, very abusive, even to his friends. Plenty of times… even at nighttime, he would be yelling at his friends. We would open our doors and come out.”
He added, “I have heard David numerous times fussing at his mom, his grandmother, and his little brother… intimidating them.”
Kevin said he had asked Becky if he could be of any assistance. “She told me personally out of her mouth, that ‘We had a talk with him, and it’s going to stop…’ It never stopped.”
Of Sayeed, Kevin said, “He was very respectful, and this really hurts everyone in this neighborhood… we cried. The little boy didn’t bother anyone. He was very intelligent. He was an autistic child. But very humble and respectful.”
Regarding her sister’s inaction, Rachel said to WKRN.com, “I just wanted to know why. Why didn’t you protect him? Why didn’t you call someone?” Through tears, she added, “That’s your baby. You should always protect your child. And I know it’s both her kids, but Sayeed was a baby. He was only 14… [David] just overpowered him. It just shouldn’t have happened.”
About her older nephew, David Matheny, she said, “The more you get to know [him], he’s a narcissistic bully. A domineering kind of personality that always has to have his way, always has to be right, always has to be in control.”
On the evening of Monday, October 26, neighbors, friends, and family members gathered for a vigil honoring Sayeed outside the home where Sayeed died. The group left candles, flowers, and teddy bears on the porch and sang “Amazing Grace” together.
Don Neilson told a news crew at the vigil that he was at work when the assault on his son happened. “He was the kindest, gentlest little soul that ever walked the face of the earth,” Don lamented. “He never knew race… black, brown, whatever… everybody was just people to Sayeed… He loved people. People loved him… I just don’t understand how this could happen. Never in a million years would you think this would happen.”
Don also spoke with News4 Nashville at the vigil, telling them, “Sayeed was the kindest, sweetest, gentlest child.”
About the lies his wife and stepson told, Don said, “I was conned and duped. I was called and told he had fell and hit his head, and that wasn’t the case at all… I got here, and I saw the police cars. I just dropped to the ground, and I just screamed.”
Rachel said at the vigil that she suspected there were issues at her sister’s home, but she didn’t know anyone was being physically abused. “We never believed anything was this wrong, or else I would’ve been there.”
Rachel is overwhelmed with grief at the loss of her nephew, who was close with his cousin, Rachel’s son. She also has to grieve for the loss of the person she thought Becky was. “My main thing is, if people suspect that there might be abuse going on in the home, don’t look away,” she said.
Sayeed had just started high school, attending McGavock High School in Nashville virtually. For the most part, his aunt Rachel said, he was just like any other kid. “He didn’t deserve any of this. He’s supposed to go on his first date and have his first kiss; he never got any of that. It’s not fair.”
Neighbors said Sayeed didn’t speak much, but he was quick to smile and wave when they passed him walking down the street with his dog, Chloe. One neighbor said, “You could count rain or shine, he’d be walking that dog. It was his escape.”
In Sayeed’s room, Rachel found the mask for the Halloween costume her nephew had planned to wear this year: Ghostface from the Scream movies. He loved scary movies, she said, even though they scared him, and he watched them largely through the slits of his fingers.
Rachel told The Tennesseean that Sayeed was incredibly smart and would do anything to make someone laugh. He was born on January 7, 2006.
Don said, “I just want him to be remembered as a kind and gentle soul that loved everybody, just loved people.”
Rest well, Sayeed.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Sayeed’s story.
Sources: NewsChannel5 Nashville, The Tennessean, WKRN.com, News4 Nashville, Facebook