New London — Murder victim Matthew Chew’s parents, surrounded by family, friends and members of the Survivors of Homicide support group, endured the first of a five-day sentencing marathon Monday in New London Superior Court.
Marilyn and Rick Chew, who live in Arcadia, Calif., brought with them a slide show of photos spanning the quarter of a century that their youngest son lived before he was jumped by a group of six teenagers and fatally stabbed while walking home from work in downtown New London on Oct. 29, 2010.
The parents will ask the court to show the photo montage at each of this week’s sentencing hearings.
“We want them to know who Matthew was,” said Mrs. Chew.
A large group of supporters also turned out Monday for the defendant, 19-year-old Rahshad Perry, who looked over his shoulder at the victim’s family and sputtered a brief apology.
“I send my condolences out to you guys, the Chew family,” he said.
Judge Susan B. Handy sentenced Perry to 15 years in prison, followed by five years of probation, for first-degree manslaughter.
A city native with no prior criminal record, Perry had lost his brother Rahmel Perry to murder seven months before the chilly autumn night when he dared his friend Idris Elahi to stab somebody before they headed downtown with a group of friends. The case of Rahmel Perry’s accused killer, Miguel Vega, is pending in the same courtroom where Rahshad Perry was prosecuted.
“There’s a whole lot of people who are here on both sides that know what you’re going through, because we’re going through the same thing,” said Perry’s mother, Viola Cook to the Chew family. “I’m sorry that any of us in this room is here.”
The Chews spoke of their broken lives and the intrusive thoughts they have of their son’s death, but also talked of the impression he had made as part of New London’s arts community and with customers at 2 Wives Brick Oven Pizza, where he worked as a pizza chef. His family and friends have established The Matthew Chew Memorial Scholarship for the Arts in his name.
During the slideshow, the assembly silently watched Chew develop from an infant in his mother’s arms to a smiling, tow-headed boy dressed up for Halloween, playing Twister and watching TV with his older sister and brother. They saw pictures of the young man Chew had become before his death, skydiving, standing at a DJ’s sound board, and with his arms around his girlfriend, nieces and nephews.
In one photo he wore a neon yellow shirt that said, “Karma.”
Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney said Chew was “the symbol of everything New London wants to be.” He said Perry and his friends had done a great deal of damage to the city that night, and that after the random killing, people became scared to come into the city.
Judge Susan B. Handy thanked the Chews for their strength and fortitude and for helping her get to know Matthew.
“Your son is not a name to me,” she told them. “He is a living body. He is not just a statistic. He had a great zest for life. He had a great commitment to his family and friends.”
Handy also addressed Perry’s mother.
“You’ve already lost a son, I know that,” the judge said. “And today you are going to lose another son in a way.”
The six teens had been hanging out watching video games when they decided to go out and jump someone, according to court testimony. Perry dared Elahi to stab somebody, and the two “dapped it up,” or sealed the dare with the secret hand gesture of their group, “The Goon Squad.” The teens set their sights on Chew, who had just left work and was walking down Huntington Street toward his Washington Street apartment. They surrounded him and began the attack. At one point he broke away, but was caught again, Carney said.
“At this time, Idris began to stab him,” Carney said. “At some point, he (Chew) said, ‘Why? Why is this happening?’”
Carney said Rahshad Perry and Tyree Bundy, who are cousins, stood in the street, laughing during the attack. Perry’s attorney, William Gerace, said Perry never touched Chew during the attack and that he never intended for anyone to be killed.
“Would he have been laughing if he knew it was real?” Gerace said. Stupid, crazy talk had amplified into “a horror,” he said.
Chew was mortally wounded in the attack but was able to speak when Good Samaritan Shaun Smalley came upon him lying in the street. His suffering could clearly be heard in the background of the 911 call that Smalley placed. He died hours later at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
New London police arrested the six teens on murder charges a month later, and all have remained in prison while their court cases were pending. The lead aggressor, Elahi, was sentenced in May 2012 to 35 years in prison. This week, the remaining five defendants will be sentenced on manslaughter charges.
The state offered plea deals to the five men based on whether they cooperated with the investigation. The family did not endorse the prison sentences and said Monday that they hope the young men convicted in their son’s death would not be released from prison early.
“Please remember that this convict, Rahshad Perry, throughout this time has been uncooperative with the state and that he dared Idris Elahi to stab somebody,” Mrs. Chew said in her victim impact statement.
Perry is one of three teens who did not cooperate with police or the state’s attorney’s office.
Brian Rabell, who turned 21 over the weekend, cooperated with the investigation and is scheduled to be sentenced today to eight years in prison. Bundy, 20, also cooperated and will be sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday. Matias Perry, 19, who did not cooperate with the investigation, is to be sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison. Marquis Singleton, 19, will be sentenced Friday to eight years in prison.
The Chew case will no longer be on the docket as of the end of this week, but Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said the city should never forget what happened.
In an interview Saturday, Finizio said the city would continue to keep Chew’s memory alive with an annual Neighbor Day event on the Sunday before Memorial Day.
Finizio said New London needs to remain vigilant with violence prevention efforts, including law-enforcement, youth programs, counseling and non-violence education. New London police detective Matthew Galante, who had worked on the case, watched Monday’s hearing from the back row of the courtroom.
“It’s a good thing there’s closure for the case, and I hope there’s some closure for the family of Matthew Chew,” Finizio said. “But we as a city should never forget.”