Twenty-year-old Tyree Bundy chose to remain silent Wednesday as he was sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in the murder of Matthew Chew, but his mother, moved by a slide show display of Chew’s life, issued a spontaneous apology to the victim’s mom.
Elga David had not planned to speak at the sentencing hearing in New London Superior Court. She broke down during the airing of a video display of photos spanning the victim’s 25 years and decided at the last moment that she had something to say.
Judge Susan B. Handy allowed David to step into the well of the courtroom and stand near the desk where her son, a tall young man in a neon orange prison jumpsuit and leg irons, sat during the sentencing.
David turned her head toward Marilyn Chew in the front row of the gallery and delivered a brief statement.
“I do want to apologize, from one mother to another,” Elga David said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like. I can’t even handle this (her son’s sentencing).”
David said she had not raised her son “this way,” but that she could not control him.
“This was not his intention to take a life,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”
Bundy was sentenced on the third day of a weeklong marathon of hearings that will bring an end to court proceedings in the Chew case. Six local teenagers had randomly targeted Chew, a pizza cook and artist, for a “beat down” on Oct. 29, 2010, according to prosecutor Stephen M. Carney.
The teens surrounded Chew, who had just finished his shift at 2 Wives Brick Oven Pizza and was walking down Huntington Street toward his Washington Street apartment. As the beating continued, Idris Elahi took out a knife and stabbed Chew.
At an earlier court hearing, Bundy testified that the teens were hanging out at Elahi’s house on Home Street when something on television made them want to “go out and do something,” according to Carney.
The group decided to jump a random victim, then Rahshad Perry dared Elahi to stab somebody. The two “dapped it up,” or sealed the dare with the secret hand gesture of their group, “The Goon Squad.” Bundy and Rabell had testified they tried to “break up the dap,” because they didn’t want the attack to escalate to that level.
The prosecutor said there was no evidence that Bundy actually laid hands on Chew during the beating. The evidence does indicate that Bundy “engaged in the hunt,” and that he and his cousin, Rahshad Perry, stood in the street laughing while the four others participated in the attack, according to Carney.
Elahi pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced last year to 35 years in prison. The other five defendants pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and are being sentenced this week in New London Superior Court.
Bundy, Rabell and Marquis Singleton, who cooperated in the investigation, are receiving eight-year prison sentences. Rahshad Perry and Matias Perry, who are not related, did not cooperate and are receiving 15-year prison sentences.
“This defendant cooperated with the state, and it was a very difficult thing for him to do, and I think we should acknowledge this,” Carney said of Bundy.
At each of this week’s hearings, Marilyn and Rick Chew have asked court officials to display the photo montage of their son’s life so that the defendants could see that “he wasn’t just a random person.” The parents have delivered impact statements containing much of the same content but tailored to each individual defendant. They describe a “new normal” that involves intrusive thoughts of their son’s violent death, sleepless nights and missing him at family gatherings and holidays.
“Matthew’s friends and family have received a life sentence,” said Rick Chew.
Chew, who reportedly asked, “Why is this happening?” during the attack, was able to tell a person who found him in the street that he had been jumped before he lost consciousness. He died several hours later at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Marilyn Chew said she takes comfort knowing her son became unconscious with the knowledge that help was on its way and that he was not alone.
Addressing the judge for the first time Wednesday, Chew’s sister, Melinda “Mindy” Fowler, described the crime’s impact on her children, who she said continually asked when Uncle Matt would be coming back.
Two months after his death, when asked at school to write down her Christmas wish, her daughter wished “that her mother could be happy again,” Fowler said.
Then, Fowler said, “My son asked if we could have his birthday in heaven so Uncle Matt could be there.”
She said Bundy had participated in the slaughter of her brother and that no mother should ever have to tell her children about such an evil act.
Judge Handy thanked the Chew family and addressed Bundy’s mother before she imposed the sentence.
“I recognize this repetition of your words and thoughts gets more difficult as we go on day after day, and I apologize for that,” she told the Chews.
The judge told Bundy’s mom that as a mother herself, she had appreciated her comments.
“We hold out such hope for our children,” Handy said. “We want them to be happy. We want them to be healthy. That’s what parents do.”
Bundy had no criminal record and was on track to graduate from New London High School prior to his arrest. Handy told him, as she has told the others, that she doesn’t understand the “pack mentality” that led them to beat down a stranger and leave him in the street to die.
“You were a follower,” she said. “That doesn’t make you a man. Walking away, doing the right thing, that makes you a man.”
The judge told Bundy he owes it to Matthew Chew and his family to “do better.”
Bundy, who hung his head throughout much of the hearing, opted not to speak. His attorney, Sebastian DeSantis, said Bundy, who was 17 when the crime occurred, has shown “remorse and insight.”
“Mr. Bundy did ask me to apologize to (Chew’s) family for his actions,” DeSantis said.