City stabbing victim mourned

Two men embrace after attending the celebration of life for Matthew Chew at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation in New London on Friday. Chew was stabbed to death shortly after leaving for home from his job at 2 Wives restaurant on Huntington Street on the night of Oct. 29.
Two men embrace after attending the celebration of life for Matthew Chew at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation in New London on Friday. Chew was stabbed to death shortly after leaving for home from his job at 2 Wives restaurant on Huntington Street on the night of Oct. 29. Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo

New London - On the day Matthew Chew was buried, questions still lingered around the circumstances of his violent death last Friday night on a downtown street.

The 25-year-old was stabbed about 11:30 p.m. Oct. 29, shortly after leaving his job as a cook at 2 Wives Gourmet restaurant on Huntington Street. He was on his way to his Washington Street apartment, less than a tenth of a mile away.

Police immediately called the incident "drug related" and assured residents that there was no threat to the public. But friends quickly dismissed that characterization and said the attack on Chew was a random act.

Police have declined multiple requests from The Day to provide additional information, including how they determined the crime was drug-related, what they mean by that phrase, and whether Chew knew his attackers.

"No new information will be released at this time as the investigation is active and solid leads have been developed. Once we reach a point in the investigation that would make releasing case specific details prudent we will issue a statement," Deputy Chief Marshall Segar said in an e-mail.

On Friday, friends and family of Chew gathered in the sanctuary of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation to mourn his death and celebrate his life. Chew was buried earlier in the day at Dean Cemetery in Canterbury.

"You didn't know Matt if he didn't get under your skin,'' said Wayne Fowler, who is married to Chew's sister, Mindy, making the roughly 200 people at the service laugh.

His brother-in-law had ADHD, he said, and he was told it was like running around in a dark room filled with furniture. Chew dealt with his ADHD by running around the room and wrecking everything, Fowler said.

"He appeared to be selfish, but he wasn't. If Matt got an idea into his head, he was going to do it and he wouldn't stop until he did,'' Fowler said.

Reading poems and lyrics from songs, speaker after speaker told of Chew's forgiving nature, his penchant for practical jokes and his ability to focus on his art and music.

Mourners sobbed as a montage of photographs documented Chew's life: a youngster dressed up as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for Halloween; climbing rocks; holding his young nieces and nephews; and lazing around with his dog, Ellie. The final image was Chew in a mustard-colored T-shirt with the words "Karma" written across the chest. He was a Buddhist.

"Matt's life held tremendous meaning,'' said Carolyn Patierno, pastor of All Souls. "It's hard to make sense of such depravity and cruelty. We try to extract meaning out of death, but nothing would make sense for us.''

Chew was stabbed at least six times, according to sources, and tried to run back to 2 Wives after the attack but collapsed on the street outside the restaurant. He was taken to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital and then flown by Life Star helicopter to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he died.

Chew's friends believe he was the target of random violence and question how the police could say the public wasn't at risk if a suspect was at large.

Chew was in the wrong place at the wrong time, according some who gathered at his wake Thursday night.

"If someone was trying to mug him for drug money, he would have given it to them. He wouldn't have fought back,'' said one young woman who knew Chew for 10 years. "He would have tried to solve it by giving it to them."

She added that she's worried about walking on the streets with her 4-year-old child.

Marco Frucht, another friend, made a video that attempts to retrace Chew's steps from 2 Wives to where he was killed. Frucht said his timeline of events is based on conversations he has had with Chew's friends and co-workers.

In the video, which is posted on YouTube, Frucht said that Chew, after being stabbed, banged on the door or window of a sober house on Huntington Street.

But on Thursday, a man at the house said no one heard or saw anything that night. He said he didn't realize anything had happened until he opened the front door the day after the stabbing and discovered crime-scene tape.

The 2 Wives pizza restaurant, where Chew invented a popular pear and Gorgonzola pie, sits atop Huntington Street, normally a quiet section of road. Attorneys' offices, two churches, a house for recovering addicts and a large brick apartment building line the two sides of Huntington, a street Chew would have walked every day.

From the restaurant, his apartment on Washington Street was down the street and around the corner, no more than a few hundred yards away.

Some of his friends think that Chew was stabbed near the bottom of the street and then staggered back up the hill before collapsing near the New London Public Library, which is next door to 2 Wives.

At Hanafin's Pub, just around the corner from 2 Wives where Chew and his friends often gathered, owner Diarmuid Hanafin hung a large photograph of Chew over the pub's dart board as a memorial.

"Matt was on our darts team and looked forward to playing every week," Hanafin said. "It's absolutely heartbreaking."

Day staff writers Karin Crompton, Stephen Chupaska and Chuck Potter contributed to this report.

In memoriam:

Those involved in the New London music scene are memorializing Chew with two charity concerts at the Oasis Pub at 16 Bank St. Performers Friday night were Diamond Twins and Chumzilla. Straight to VHS, Fatal Film and Swagger Jackers are scheduled to play tonight. Sean Murray, a local music promoter, said proceeds raised during the shows will benefit a scholarship fund in Chew's name and Smilin Pit Bull Rescue.

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