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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    New London man serving 85-year sentence for murder wants out

    A former New London man serving an 85-year prison sentence for his part in the brutal beating and killing of an Essex man in 1998 wants to be released from prison.

    Gregory Pierre, 50, made a pitch for a reduced sentence to Superior Court Judge John Newson Wednesday in New London Superior Court, apologizing to the victim’s family and portraying himself as a changed man who has rediscovered religion.

    Pierre was convicted at trial in 2001 of felony murder, first-degree manslaughter, kidnapping, robbery and other charges in the killing of 33-year-old James Conner, a yacht captain from Essex.

    In August of 1998, Connor drove to Lucky’s Cafe in New London to buy crack cocaine. It’s where prosecutors said Connor met Pierre and agreed to buy drugs from him. At Pierre’s apartment, Connor was robbed and beaten by Pierre and two other men.

    Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Carney, who argued against any modification to Pierre’s sentence at Wednesday’s hearing, said 85 years may seem harsh until you delve into the details of the slaying.

    Connor was beaten with a metal rod which was inserted into his throat while he was still alive and twisted to snap his neck, Carney said.

    Carney called the crime “so horrifically violent it’s hard to find the words to say in court.”

    “It’s hard to say (the 85-year prison sentence) is not fair,” he said.

    The car Connor drove to Pierre’s apartment was discovered in a duck pond in Waterford which led to a frantic search by his family members, some of whom submitted statements read aloud in court at Wednesday’s hearing. Connor’s partially decomposed remains were discovered about four months after the killing in Bates Woods in New London.

    “Everything that happened that night was never supposed to happen,” Pierre said.

    Pierre was represented in court Wednesday by attorney Darrien Boone of the Hartford-based Goddard Law Offices. Boone called Pierre a “substantially different man,” compared to when he was 27, his age when he was convicted.

    In prison, Boone said Pierre has maintained a strong work ethic, serves as a peer mentor to incarcerated youth and remains in constant contact with his three children.

    “He understands his acts have deeply affected a lot of people,” Boone said.

    Pierre’s daughter and his former girlfriend spoke on his behalf.

    Two other men - Jeffrey “Monk“ Smith and Abin Britton - were also convicted in Connor’s murder. All three men have made unsuccessful appeals of their convictions and/or sentences.

    State law allows superior court judges “after hearing and for good cause shown,” to reduce a prison sentence. Newson said Wednesday that he intended to issue a written decision on Pierre’s request at a later date, but that it would not be based simply on time served.

    State Department of Correction records show Pierre has been incarcerated for nearly 25 years, since June 25, 1999.

    Representatives of Connor’s family who were in court on Wednesday declined comment.

    g.smith@theday.com

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