Published May 23. 2012 12:00PM Updated May 24. 2012 12:11AM
The murder of 25-year-old Matthew Chew on Oct. 29, 2010, not only devastated his family and left them struggling for a "new sense of normal," it tore at the already fragile sense of safety in the downtown New London area.
On Wednesday, the first of six defendants, Idris Elahi, 19, was sentenced in New London Superior Court to 35 years in prison for Chew's murder.
Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney said the group went out "hunting for someone to hurt."
In previous statements, the teens said they were sitting around at Elahi's house prior to the incident and something they saw on TV got them "hyped," so they decided to go out and jump a random victim. Rahshad Perry dared Elahi to stab somebody, and the two gave each other a "dap" handshake, according to testimony.
Chew was walking home from his job as a pizza cook when he was accosted on Huntington Street. Elahi stabbed him repeatedly in the abdomen and gave the knife to one of the others, police said. The weapon was never recovered.
Carney said Chew's last words were, "Why? Why is this happening to me?"
The answer to that will never really be known, Carney said.
The murder, he noted, affected how people lived and worked in the city.
"People were afraid to go to work," Carney said. "... People shouldn't have to live this way, your honor."
The courtroom was filled with friends and family of both the victim and the accused.
Carney showed a slide show that captured moments of Chew's life.
It showed Chew skydiving, cradled by his mother, hosted on top of his father's shoulders, family vacations, embracing his girlfriend and dressed as a devil for Halloween.
As the images scrolled on a large projector screen, there was complete silence in the courtroom. Tears were shed by those sitting on both sides of the aisle.
Elahi just stared at the screen, occasionally swaying in his chair.
Chew's parents, Marilyn and Rick, and his girlfriend's mother, Laura Lonardelli, addressed Judge Patrick J. Clifford, describing their terrible sense of loss.
Marilyn Chew said she wanted to show the slide show of her youngest child so that Elahi could get a sense of who he was.
"... Because those that killed him didn't know who they killed," she said.
She said it has been 18 months, 25 days since she got the call that her son was fatally injured. Since then, she hasn't had a restful night of sleep. She wakes up in tears. Since then, there hasn't been a moment that she hasn't struggled to cope with the loss of her son.
"I miss his smile," she said as her voice quivered. "I miss his sense of humor. I miss his caring for my family."
Chew said her family is fractured and can never be fixed.
"Thirty-five years doesn't seem like enough for what he did," Marilyn Chew said. "It was a horrible thing and he needs to suffer for the things he has done."
Rick Chew said he has struggled to understand why his son was killed. He told the court that he finally came to the conclusion that he would never understand why the six attacked and killed his son.
"I'm left with the concept that there is pure evil in the world and it's a closer companion that I ever dreamt," he said.
Elahi's parent's, Damita and Muneer, spoke on their son's behalf. They said that their thoughts and prayers were with Chew's family.
"You have been in my thoughts and prayers continuously," Damita said. "Everybody is at a loss. Those young boys weren't thinking. ... I do love him. He's my son."
Elahi opted not to speak on his behalf.
Clifford said "the randomness of this particular crime is so surreal." He said the teens had opportunities to stop the crime, but they didn't.
"There was not one strong kid among them to stop it," Clifford said. "There was a certain level of depravity that borders on the barbaric."
Chew's death triggered a call for action, as his friends held toy drives, talent shows and park gatherings in an effort to unite the community.
Now that Elahi has been sentenced, the state will begin to make plea offers to the other five co-defendants: 19-year-old Tyree Bundy, 18-year-old Marquis Singleton, 20-year-old Brian Rabell, 18-year-old Matias Perry and 19-year-old Rahshad Perry.
After the sentencing, Chew's girlfriend, Lindsay Krodel, said she is trying to remain positive. She designed a tie with Chew's artwork that Rick Chew wore Wednesday.
Krodel still has the pit bull, Ellie, that she shared with Chew. She said the dog helps her feel connected to Chew.
"I'm trying to live up to what Matt would have wanted for me," Krodel said.
Rick Chew said he was glad the case was not going to trial and hoped that the cases of the other defendant's would soon be resolved.
Both he and his wife said they were not surprised that Elahi did not apologize for his crime.
Marilyn Chew said as a mother she felt badly for Elahi's family but noted that no matter the age one has to be held accountable for his or her actions.
"Love your children," Marilyn Chew said. "Be there for them and teach them right from wrong."
Rick Chew added, "Everyone here should go out and hug their kids extra."