Published July 02. 2010 1:59PM Updated July 02. 2010 2:06PM
Two young men who served as lookouts while two others boarded a boat in Mystic and killed 29-year-old Kyle Sheets during a botched robbery in September 2008 each have been sentenced to five-year prison terms, five years' probation and 500 hours of community service.
New London Judge Susan B. Handy imposed the sentences on Bruce Grisafe III, 16, and Bryan Sutton, 20, after listening to arguments this morning from attorneys who said their clients had been influenced by the other, older men to take part in the robbery and had no idea it would turn deadly. Both of the young men apologized for their involvement and for the suffering they brought upon the Sheets family.
Sheets’ father, Russell Sheets, lived with his son aboard the Crucible, which was docked at Seaport Marine. The father was with his son when Christopher Allen and Vincent Green boarded the boat with fake pistols with the intent of robbing Kyle Sheets of drugs and money. A struggle ensued, and Allen pulled out a knife and fatally stabbed Sheets. Allen is serving a 32-year prison sentence, and Green is serving 25 years. With this morning’s sentencings of the two accomplices, the judge told Russell Sheets, who has attended court appearances for all four of the defendants over the past two years, that she hopes the sentencing provides him with some closure.
Grisafe and Sutton were initially arrested on accessory to murder charges. They both accepted plea deals in which they agreed to plead guilty to accessory to first-degree robbery and serve up to six years in prison. Under the plea agreements, their attorneys had the right to argue for shorter sentences.
Prosecutor Lawrence J. Tytla said the state reduced the charges for the two men because they clearly were not the “primary movers,” but he noted also that they took part in planning the robbery and from their vantage points as lookouts could see what was happening through the boat windows.
Representing Grisafe, who has been held at the Manson Youth Institute since his arrest, attorney Bruce A. McIntyre said his client looked up to his half-brother, Green, with whom he had been living in Mystic for a short time after leaving the custody of his grandparents in Salem.
“If his brother jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, he probably would have jumped off right behind him, and this is what he did,” McIntyre said. Grisafe’s grandfather, Bruce Grisafe Sr., said he and his wife had custody of Grisafe until he was about 13 years old and that he had flourished under their care. The grandfather said when Grisafe is released he would provide him with a home and a job in his small business.
Handy reduced the sentence by one year but said there is a price to be paid.
“You have your whole life ahead of you, something Mr. Sheets does not,” she told Grisafe.
Sutton’s attorney, John Berman, told a similar story of a young man who was unduly influenced by Allen, who had befriended him a few months earlier. Berman said Allen was cunning and manipulative and that Sutton, who is naïve and has “cognitive issues,” went along with the robbery without knowing the consequences. Sutton has been out on bond while his case was pending, and he graduated from high school while awaiting sentencing. A dozen people, including his mother, sat in the courtroom awaiting his fate this morning. Berman asked the judge to consider a period of imprisonment followed by home confinement, because Sutton, unlike Grisafe, will be going to an adult prison once he turns 21, and that it would be a difficult environment.
“I understand it will be difficult, but it should be difficult,” Handy said. “Someone died, and we can never forget that.”
During the five years' probation that will follow their prison sentences, both men are to serve 100 hours of community service each year. The judge told them to consider doing something “that honors the memory of Kyle Sheets.”