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Matthews rejects plea offer in arson-murder case

By Karen Florin

Publication: theday.com

Published October 24. 2013 12:00PM   Updated October 24. 2013 8:18PM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day file photo
In an April 16, 2012, Day file photo, Joel Matthews is led from the court after appearing before Judge Kevin McMahon on two counts of murder and one count of second-degree arson.

Joel Matthews, who is accused of killing two neighbors with a baseball bat on April 13, 2012, and setting fire to their New London apartment building to cover up the crime, has refused the state’s offer to plead guilty in exchange for a 50-year prison sentence.

Matthews, 30, turned down the offer Thursday when he appeared before Judge Hillary B. Strackbein in New London Superior Court with his attorneys, Kevin C. Barrs and M. Fred DeCaprio. His case has been added to the trial list.

Prosecutor Lawrence J. Tytla said he offered Matthews the option of pleading guilty to two counts of murder in exchange for 50 years in prison. Strackbein asked Matthew if he understands that he is now exposed to a life sentence if he is convicted at trial.

“I’m well aware,” said Matthews, who has been held in lieu of $1 million bond since New London police arrested him the day after the alleged arson-murder at 36 Blinman St.

The victims, Noel Starback, 57 and Sherry Roush, 50, were discovered in their first-floor apartment when the New London Fire Department responded to a fire.

According to police, Matthews, who also lived in the building, confessed that after a day of drinking, he killed Starback and Roush with a baseball bat and returned later with his mother and set fire to the house to cover up the crime. The mother, Julie Vince, has not been charged in the case.

She was in the courtroom during Matthews’ appearance Thursday, and he turned and wished her a happy birthday as he was led back into the lockup area.

— Karen Florin

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