Man gets 60 years in prison for 2008 murder in Groton

New London - Calling it a "carefully planned out execution," Judge Arthur C. Hadden handed down a 60-year prison sentence to Ryan C. Wright, who a jury in January found guilty of the 2008 murder of Jamel Campbell at a Groton hotel.

Wright, 33, chose not to speak and stared straight ahead throughout the Monday afternoon proceeding in Superior Court, even when Emily Strother, Campbell's girlfriend, asked Wright to look at her as she spoke on behalf of Campbell's family. Strother urged Hadden to sentence Wright to 60 years, the maximum allowable sentence for the crime.

In doing just that, Hadden, who sat on the bench during the trial, said the murder wasn't an "immediate reaction" to a situation, as is sometimes true in such cases.

Testimony from Meagan Foley, Wright's co-conspirator in the crime, "made it evident that you carefully planned and executed the murder of Mr. Campbell," Hadden said. "It was an obvious effort to end the life of Mr. Campbell. There is no doubt of intent."

Campbell had been shot six times at the Ramada Inn in Groton on Dec. 9, 2008. During the trial, the state contended Campbell was angry that Wright had slept with Campbell's girlfriend while Campbell was incarcerated. Testimony revealed that Campbell and a friend had stolen Wright's "prized possession," a white Mercedes, a month before the murder, and that Wright, seeking revenge, conspired with Foley, a mutual friend, to lure Campbell to the hotel.

Hadden said Foley's testimony and text messages sent by both Foley and Wright conclusively proved Wright pulled the trigger.

Strother, who has a now 7-year-old son with Campbell, spoke on behalf of Campbell's family, including two aunts who traveled from New York and sat in the front row. One aunt, Sheila Campbell, stared at Wright throughout the proceeding.

Strother said she once called Wright a friend, "someone I've known for years." She had even ridden in the Mercedes discussed at the trial, she said.

While the pain is tough every day, Strother, who began crying, said her son, who was 3 at the time of the murder, will never know his father. Wright, she said, has a child the same age as her son.

"(The murder) was 12 days before his fourth birthday," she said of her son. "He hasn't had a real birthday in so long."

As she spoke, Campbell's aunts cried in the first row of the courtroom. After the sentencing, Sheila Campbell said "60 years is good for me." But, she said, continuing on with life "will be never be easy."

February's finding of guilt came at the end of a second trial for Wright. Last year, after several days of deliberations, the jury found Wright guilty of conspiring to murder Campbell but was hung on the murder charge. Wright was sentenced to 20 years on the conspiracy charge and rejected an offer to plead guilty to murder in exchange for a sentence that would keep him in prison an additional 13 years. He opted for a second trial, and attorneys selected a new jury of 12 to hear the case.

At the beginning of the sentencing, Wright's attorney, Sebastian O. DeSantis, made a motion, which was denied, for Hadden to acquit Wright on the charge. DeSantis said he will be appealing.

"Both juries felt Mr. Wright was involved but not actually the person who pulled the trigger and killed Mr. Campbell," DeSantis said.

Judge Hadden said Wright's pleas of innocence "have fallen on deaf ears."

Wright's 60-year sentence will run concurrently to his conspiracy sentence.

Foley is incarcerated on a conspiracy charge and faces up to 20 years in prison in her own case. She is cooperating with the state and has testified at both trials with the hope of getting "consideration" in her own case.

s.goldstein@theday.com

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