Carolyn Mattingly during a family trip. Photo courtesy of the Luv u Project
The living room walls in Richard Mattingly’s apartment are bare. The kitchen is spotless. There’s no welcome mat outside, and no knickknacks decorate the shelf beside the door. “This isn’t my home,” he says as he walks through the labyrinth of corridors at Cadence at Crown, a luxury apartment community in Gaithersburg. “This is where I stay.”
A pair of coffee-table books—one about his home state of Kentucky, another on the history of whiskey—hints at the man who lives here. So does the small polished stone heart near the TV. “Carolyn loved hearts. She gave me hearts all the time,” he says. But mostly the place feels untouched, like a model apartment waiting to be shown.
For Mattingly, 60, home is still the red brick colonial in Potomac that he can’t return to, except to deal with real estate agents or to pick up files he left behind. The house, listed for $1.3 million, has been on the market for more than a year. Carolyn, his wife of 34 years, was killed there in September 2014. Mattingly hasn’t slept in the house since.
“We had a great home,” he says, his voice breaking.
Photo by Michael Ventura
On the streets below his apartment are popular restaurants, bars and coffee shops he never visits. “I think I went one night to eat by myself,” he says. Tall and fit with gray hair and a moustache, Mattingly looks like a Southern gentleman and speaks with a gentle drawl. “That’s the most depressing thing in the world—at my age, at least—to walk into a restaurant and eat by yourself.”
Two years ago, police told Mattingly that his wife was dead and that one of his co-workers—a man Carolyn had never met—was suspected of killing her. At the time, Mattingly was the chief operating officer and executive vice president of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a national nonprofit based in Bethesda. Andrew Racca, a longtime employee at the foundation, had recently been caught stealing from the organization. The previous day, Mattingly and other executives told Racca they would be calling the police.
“I guess you gotta believe he wanted me,” Mattingly says.
Since then, he has quit his job and dedicated himself to honoring his wife’s passion for helping others. In Carolyn’s memory, Mattingly, the couple’s daughter, Christin, and her husband, Alex Lewis, formed The Luv u Project, a nonprofit focused on what Mattingly describes as “advancing mental health through action.” He can’t help but believe that mental illness lies at the heart of his wife’s death. After the killing, Mattingly says he called Racca “sick,” but he’s more careful now about using words that might contribute to the stigma.
“I don’t know how you can be of sound mind and do what he did to her,” he says of Racca. The two didn’t work closely together. Mattingly knew him, but not well, he says, and until the theft he’d never noticed anything concerning. Still, he’s convinced something had to be wrong with the man. “Could something have been done to change what happened that day?” Mattingly wonders. “I ask myself that question all the time.”
* * *
The last day of September 2014 dawned with overcast skies, but by midmorning the clouds were breaking up and a light breeze was blowing. It was a Tuesday. Mattingly was at work, and Carolyn was alone at the couple’s spacious home on Great Elm Drive, which sits on 2 acres at the end of a cul-de-sac. Their Potomac neighborhood was not a common place for crime, but that morning someone had slashed all four tires on Carolyn’s black sedan as it sat in the driveway.
Worried, she called her husband at the office. “Why would somebody do this?” Carolyn asked.
The Mattingly home in Potomac is still for sale. Photo by Michael Ventura
“Let me come home,” Mattingly remembers saying to her. She told him not to. “Of course, now I wish I had,” he says.
At 57, Carolyn ran half-marathons and had been gearing up for a 65-mile bike ride to raise money for the CF Foundation. A former mortgage banker, she worked as a real estate agent at Long & Foster, but spent much of her time volunteering. When Christin, their only child, was younger, Carolyn coached her soccer team and led her Brownie troop. When Christin was a student at Winston Churchill High School, her mom chaired the booster club. Carolyn also served as chairwoman of the Maryland Commission for Women, an advocacy group with the state government. The role led to her interest in prisoner reentry programs for women.
“How many other Bethesda [moms] do you know who are working in [a] prison?” says Cathy Serrette, a Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge who helped Carolyn organize an annual conference at the women’s prison in Jessup. “That was one of the things that struck me about Carolyn. She was this wonderful woman who, unlike many of us, was absolutely comfortable in [that] environment. She reached out to everyone.”
Carolyn’s husband had spent 38 years at the CF Foundation and formed lasting bonds with families struggling with the impact of cystic fibrosis, a progressive genetic disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system. In that time, he’d seen doctors and researchers help patients live much longer lives, and the CF Foundation had played a key role. Since the late 1990s, it had given drugmaker Vertex about $150 million to help support the development of a pill called Kalydeco, which became the first drug to treat the root cause of cystic fibrosis in certain patients when it was approved in 2012. The foundation made its investment in Vertex in exchange for royalty rights, and it was poised to sell those rights for $3.3 billion, making it the nation’s largest disease-focused charity in terms of assets.
In the days before his wife’s death, Mattingly had been dealing with a problem at work. Computer equipment had been purchased but was nowhere to be found. Foundation executives had uncovered what authorities now believe was a three-year racket: A pair of employees had tricked the organization into buying nearly $300,000 worth of electronic equipment it didn’t need, and then they turned around and sold it online. Executives suspected that Racca was involved. The 42-year-old Chevy Chase resident had been the foundation’s senior systems engineer for eight years before being promoted to director of network operations six months earlier. The previous Thursday, Racca’s bosses confronted him about the missing equipment, and he skipped work the following day. When Racca returned on Monday, the day before the killing, they told him they would be notifying authorities. Now he’d failed to show up for work again.