Unending pain from inexplicable act

So much suffering inflicted for no rational or even understandable reason. That exasperating emptiness gnaws at the stomach as the aftermath of the murder of Matthew Chew, 25, continues to unfold.

On Wednesday Idris Elahi, 19, one of six teens charged in connection with the New London slaying, was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment. Mr. Elahi had earlier pleaded guilty to the Oct. 29, 2010 murder. The relatively light sentence for murder suggests the difficulty prosecutors face parceling out culpability with so many defendants involved.

If the public, the families of the victim and the families of the accused had hoped the proceedings would provide some explanation and context for their suffering, they left unfulfilled. Mr. Elahi chose not to speak at the sentencing.

So we are left with the information gathered by police during their investigation. Mr. Elahi and the other teens were hanging out at his home. Something they were watching on TV turned their thoughts to violence. They decided to prowl the streets for a random victim. Rahshad Perry, one of the accused, allegedly dared Mr. Elahi to stab someone.

So six male teens took to the streets, and if any realized the terrible wrongness of their escapade or considered its repercussions, they chose not to speak, perhaps out of fear of being ostracized or being seen as weak.

Their paths crossed that of Matthew Chew, who was walking home from his job as a pizza cook. They confronted their victim, threatened him and Mr. Elahi, acting on the challenge, repeatedly plunged in the knife.

"Why? Why is this happening to me?" were reportedly the victim's last words as life ebbed away.

Why?

Why were the family and friends of Mr. Chew condemned to a lifetime of yearning for a child, a companion, a confidante who can never return? Why are the families of the one convicted and five accused young men fated to their own form of torment?

The mind can rationalize such a terrible outcome from a robbery, or an attack tied to passion, revenge, greed or jealously. But the cold-blooded nature of this attack, with alleged cooperation of so many, is even more troubling and terrifying for its lack of rationality.

The other accused await their day in court, Tyree Bundy, 19; Marquis Singleton, 18; Matias Perry, 18; Rahshad Perry, 19; and Brian Rabell, now 20.

While this murder on a public street certainly shook New London, the community did not surrender to despondency and fear. Mr. Chew, an artist and musician, was indicative of the young adults helping breathe new life into the downtown area. And they have continued to come; filling its apartments, frequenting its music venues, supporting the growing number of shops that cater to this new community. That vibrancy is a testimony to the spirit of a young man who adopted New London and found it a fun place where he wanted to be.

Out of this tragedy also grew an increased awareness of the need for the community to pay greater attention to its young people, to provide more positive outlets for teen energy and make sure it recognizes the kids who are doing the right things. Though fiscal realities temper such efforts, there have been success stories, including an annual talent show that engages the community and its youth.

Continuing to work to improve this community is the best tribute to a young man who was just starting his life here. While perhaps the city will never make sense of this violent act, it can continue to work for positive change; there is some sense in that.

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