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Texas tragedy takes life of beloved girls soccer coach

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

A chivalrous attempt to preserve the safety of the mother of a high school soccer player had tragic consequences last week, with repercussions that became much more dire Monday when Stratford (Texas) High girls soccer coach Christopher Matthews, pictured below, died after being removed from life support.

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"There is never a good explanation for things like this," University Interscholastic League executive director Charles Breithaupt told the Houston Chronicle. "You hate this for his family, the school, that community and those kids who look up to him every day. Our hearts go out to Stratford right now."

According to the Chronicle, the string of events that led to Matthews' death began last Friday, when Matthews, other coaches and teachers, and parents of his players were finishing a celebratory dinner in honor of the Spartans' latest victory. Toward the end of the meal, one of the parents on hand became concerned with threatening text messages that she began receiving from her husband.

Matthews -- whose own wife was also at the dinner -- decided he would walk the woman to her car to provide a measure of protection. As soon as they exited the restaurant, Matthews and the woman were confronted by her husband, Ronald Lee Newman, who allegedly punched Matthews in the head, knocking the coach unconscious when he hit the pavement.

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The coach and world history teacher was taken to the intensive care unit of a nearby hospital, but the swelling in his brain never subsided, leaving his wife Buffie Matthews -- an assistant basketball coach and algebra teacher at Stratford -- their three young children and Matthews' other relatives with the agonizing decision to remove life support on Monday night.

"This terrible tragedy touches so many lives, and we will have many of our students with a connection to these two employees," Stratford principal Christopher Juntti said in a statement posted Tuesday on the school's website.

Newman was charged with assault in the attack, which was not his first assault charge. Harris County Jail court records show that he was also charged with assault in 2004, though the Chronicle reported that the 2004 charge was later dropped.

Yet the assault and threatening text messages apparently weren't the first acts of aggression that Newman had sent his wife's way. The pair had reportedly already divorced once, only to remarry in 2010. Newman's wife had requested a restraining order against him in 2002 following an act of "family violence," though their divorce was only finalized in 2009.

Newman's wife claimed she was planning to divorce her husband again, a process which may provide an additional level of safety for her but can't bring back a beloved coach, who spent the past five years helping mold young lives at Stratford while coaching girls soccer, softball and football.

"Many of us have had our lives touched by Coach Matthews in a positive light and today is a day of great sadness for us all," Bryan Hayman, the Pearland (Texas) High soccer coach and regional director of the Texas Association of Soccer Coaches. "I had about 70 emails [Monday] from people who want to help in any way they can. That kind of support shows you how much people care about him and his family."

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