The judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys in the cases of six young men charged in the 2010 murder of Matthew Chew have all raised one question, a question they say can never be answered: why did these men decide to attack Chew one autumn evening in 2010?
It was a question Judge Susan B. Handy posed directly to Tyree Bundy, the fourth defendant to be sentenced in the case. Bundy said he and his friends did not know Chew and had no reason to assault him. Chew was killed when one member of the group fatally stabbed him.
“I think it was so easy to follow and go along and not lead,” Handy on Wednesday. “And I think you’ll come to realize as you get older that that doesn’t make you a man.”
Handy sentenced Bundy to 16 years, suspended after eight years, with five years of probation. During probation he must obey the law, have no contact with Chew’s family, pay the family $4,200 in restitution, not possess any weapons, undergo psychiatric and substance abuse evaluation and treatment if necessary, pursue his education, complete at least 15 hours of community service each week if not employed, and have no contact with drug users, drug dealers, gang members, of convicted felons. Bundy must also have no contact with his co-defendants, with the exception of Rashad Perry—sentenced to serve 15 years in prison on Monday—because the two are related.
“No parent should ever have to explain such evilness to their child”
Assistant State’s Attorney Steve Carney said investigators were told that Bundy and Perry were laughing as the other men assaulted Chew. However, he said he thought a reduced sentence for Bundy was appropriate since he gave testimony against co-defendant Idris Elahi and cooperated with investigators.
“This defendant cooperated with the state, and it was a very, very difficult thing for him,” said Carney.
Chew’s sister, Mindy Fowler, spoke for the first time during the sentencings in the case. She said her youngest children will never know their uncle, and that it is difficult to explain his loss to them.
“No parent should ever have to explain such evilness to their child,” she said.
Marilyn Chew, Matthew’s mother, said she talked with her son five hours before he was attacked to plan a trip from her home in California to visit him. She later received a call that he had been stabbed and critically injured, and began preparations to stay in Connecticut longer to help take care of him. Then she received the call that her son had died.
“My husband said he is still haunted by the primal scream he heard from me at that point,” said Marilyn.
Marilyn asked that Bundy be required to serve his full sentence, saying he bears some responsibility for Chew’s death even though he cooperated with the subsequent investigation.
“He stood in the street and laughed as Matt was stabbed,” she said. “He knew that Elai had a knife and had been dared to use it.”
Richard Chew, Matthew’s father, said he and Chew’s friends will always remember him.
“Matthew was an exceptional human being,” said Richard. “He will be in the hearts of all who knew him, and he deserves nothing less.”
“Nobody expected anything like this”
Sebastian DeSantis, Bundy’s defense attorney, admitted that Bundy took an active role in the attack but has since shown remorse and an understanding of the harm he caused.
“Nobody expected anything like this to happen, with the exception, maybe, of Mr. Elahi,” said DeSantis. “I know Mr. Bundy did not expect this to happen.”
DeSantis said Bundy has also learned more about Chew since his death.
“He can think not only about the crime he committed, but who he committed that crime against and who he hurt,” said DeSantis.
Bundy chose not to speak in court, but asked DeSantis to make an apology to Chew’s family on his behalf. Elga David, Bundy’s mother, began crying during a slideshow of pictures of Chew and apologized to his family later in the proceedings.
“From one mother to another, I couldn’t imagine this,” said David. “I can’t even handle this situation. Just know that I didn’t raise him this way.”
Oct. 29, 2010
According to prior testimony, Bundy and five friends met at Idris Elahi’s house on the evening of Oct. 29, 2010. After playing video games and watching television, they became bored; Bundy later testified that something on TV made them want to go into the city and fight someone. Rashad Perry dared Elahi to stab someone, and the two started to “dap it up”—or make an oath committing to the act—before some other members of the group stopped them.
Chew, 25, was surrounded and assaulted on Huntington Street as he was walking back to his Washington Street apartment from his job as a chef at 2 Wives Pizza. He was stabbed six times and taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital after a passerby found him lying in the street and called 911. Chew was later flown to Yale-New Haven Hospital’s trauma center, but died of his injuries early the next morning.
According to a police affidavit, Bundy and co-defendant Brian Rabell identified the individuals involved in the attack. During Elahi’s probable cause hearing, Rabell and co-defendant Marquis Singleton each identified Bundy as one of the people who stopped Perry and Elahi from making the oath. Bundy also said Elahi handed him a knife after the group attacked Chew.
Elahi, 19, was accused of being the person who stabbed Chew. He entered an Alford plea to murder on Feb. 22, 2012 and was sentenced to 35 years in prison on May 23.
Bundy, who is now 20 years old and was initially charged with accessory to murder, entered an Alford plea to first-degree manslaughter on Dec. 19. An Alford plea does not admit guilt but recognizes that the state would be likely to win a conviction at trial. Each defendant other than Elahi has accepted an offer to plead to the manslaughter charge, with Carney saying he does not believe the remaining defendants intended to commit murder but bear some responsibility for Chew’s death.
Rabell, 21, received the same sentence as Bundy on Tuesday. Perry, 19, did not cooperate with investigators and was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison, suspended after 15 years, with five years of probation.
“Stupid, dangerous behavior”
Handy spoke briefly to each family, telling David she was speaking to her as a mother. As she did at Rabell’s sentencing, Handy said the defendants were responsible for their own actions.
“At some point, we have to let them make their own choices,” said Handy. “And when they falter—and falter grievously as Tyree did on the evening of Oct. 29, 2010—our hearts are broken.”
Speaking to Bundy, Handy said he had no criminal record, substance abuse problems, or mental health issues before his conviction. She said he is a now a convicted felon who will face a much more difficult life upon his release from prison.
“I do not understand this pack mentality. I do not understand these group dynamics. I do not understand this peer pressure,” said Handy. “It leads to stupid and dangerous behavior.”
Handy said Bundy has earned his General Educational Development diploma while incarcerated. She encouraged him to continue to his education while in prison, saying he owes it to his family, Chew’s family, and himself to be a better person.
The court will conclude the sentencings in the case on Thursday and Friday. Matias Perry, a 19-year-old with no relation to Rashad, has accepted an offer to serve 15 years of a 20-year sentence and five years of probation; he will be sentenced on Thursday. Marquis Singleton, 19, who accepted the same state offer as Rabell and Bundy, will be sentenced on Friday.