I moved to New London in late September of 2010, meaning I would have had about a month to meet Matthew Chew. Perhaps I did, in passing, as he hung out with friends downtown or ran a DJ gig somewhere downtown. If so, I never got to know him well before the morning of Oct. 30, 2010. My introduction to Matthew Chew was the crime scene at the Huntington Street intersection where a passing driver found him bleeding to death.
I wasn’t much older than Chew when he was murdered, and I’ve gotten to know several of his friends over the past couple of years. I see their posts on Facebook, I see them every now and again, and they mention him frequently.
It seems he was the kind of person I find his friends to be: kind, intelligent, humorous, and overall just fun to be with. I’ve never lost a friend in the way they did, and I can’t pretend to know what it was like. All I can do is think how devastating it would be if I woke up to the news that one of them, or any close friend, was never going to wake up again.
This is a case that lends itself to anger and hatred so easily. Loathing of the defendants and the horrible decisions they made on Oct. 29, 2010. Disbelief at some defense attorneys' comments, perhaps well-intentioned but ultimately hurtful, including that things got out of hand after the defendants were “horsing around” and that Chew’s murder was a “one-off.” Anger that three of the defendants received sentences that will allow them to be out of prison late in 2018. Blatantly racist comments, with plenty more racially tinged comments positing that if six white men had murdered an innocent black resident New London would have been the center of a media focus akin to that placed on Sanford, Fla. in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin.
It almost seems strange, then, that one of the few places where such rage was absent was in the courtroom during the sentencings.
At each of the five sentencings last week, Chew’s parents gave a nearly identical statement to each of the men accused of having a role in their son’s death. They said they had not been immune from anger in the aftermath of their son’s death, but their statements aimed more to give the defendants and the judge a sense of their personal pain and loss, and their wish that Chew’s memory will live on. Laura Lonardelli, the mother of Chew’s girlfriend Lindsay Krodel, read an online post Krodel had made on an anniversary of his death. Lonardelli cautioned that the post should not be taken as forgiveness of the defendants; still, the driving point of the statement was that the best way for people to honor Chew would not be to dwell on the sentences of those who attacked and stew in hatred at those who killed him, but rather to find ways to reduce violence.
Living monuments with this goal in mind started up in the two and a half years since Chew’s death. There is the arts scholarship established in his name. The pizza he invented at his job at 2 Wives Pizza that sends a portion of the proceeds toward that fund. The annual Youth Talent Show gives a creative outlet for the city’s children.
These are all positive steps. It will be up to New London not only to see them endure, but also to do all it can to make sure the city never sees another case like this ever again.