Published February 23. 2012 4:00AM Updated February 23. 2012 3:01PM
Eighteen-year-old Idris Elahi pleaded guilty Wednesday to fatally stabbing Matthew Chew on a New London street in October 2010, a crime that shocked the community because it appeared motivated only by teenage boredom.
Elahi, deemed by the state to be the main player in the random jumping and killing of Chew, a 25-year-old artist and pizza cook, is the first of six teenagers to resolve his criminal case in New London Superior Court.
Elahi pleaded guilty to murder and will be sentenced on May 23 to 35 years in prison, 25 of which are mandatory under state law. He had faced up to 60 years in prison if he was convicted at trial.
His parents, Damita and Muneer Elahi, and several family members were in the courtroom when he was brought out in his green prison jumpsuit to face the judge Wednesday. His mother, who was allowed to stand with him during his initial court appearances because he was only 17, now had to watch from the gallery as her son admitted he is guilty of murder.
Chew's parents, Marilyn and Rick Chew, live in California and were not in the courtroom to hear Elahi say he had killed their son. Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney and victim advocate Beth Ann Hess had discussed the state's plea offer with family members.
"I am not in a position to state that the family endorses the agreement," Carney said. "In fact, quite the opposite."
Chew's mother, who could not be reached to comment Wednesday, said in a recent email to The Day that she and her husband were aware of the way the case was progressing and may be in Connecticut this spring. Chew's family members will have the option of addressing the court at Elahi's sentencing.
Elahi pleaded guilty under the Alford Doctrine because he disagrees with the state's contention that he intentionally murdered Chew. However, defense attorney Bruce A. McIntyre said Elahi understands the state had enough information to prove intent at a trial.
Elahi and five other local teenagers went out that night looking to jump somebody because they were bored, according to earlier court testimony. Chew, who grew up in Ledyard, had moved to New London and established himself as a member of the city's arts community. He worked as a pizza cook at 2Wives restaurant and deejayed at local nightclubs. He was walking home from work on Huntington Street on Oct. 29, 2010, when he was accosted by Elahi and five others, according to court testimony.
Shaun Smalley, who was walking in the area, had found Chew lying in the street and called 911. Chew was able to tell Smalley he had been jumped and stabbed but lost consciousness and succumbed to his wounds several hours later at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
New London police launched an intensive investigation and within a month arrested six teens: Elahi, Marquis Singleton, Brian Rabell, Matias Perry, Rahshad Perry and Tyree Bundy.
According to testimony at an earlier hearing in the case, the teens had gathered at Elahi's house on Home Street at 8 or 9 p.m. that night. Elahi's bedroom was on the third floor and had a separate entrance.
Something they saw on TV got them "hyped," and they decided to go out and jump a random victim. Rahshad Perry dared Elahi to stab somebody, and the two gave each other "dap," a type of handshake, according to testimony.
The group headed downtown in search of a victim, giving up on the first man they chose when he got into his car. They spotted Chew wearing a tan baseball cap and walking alone on Huntington Street. Chew lived less than a tenth of a mile away from 2Wives on Washington Street. The teens split up in case Chew attempted to run. Matias Perry asked him if he had a lighter, then hit Chew in the face when Chew reached into his pocket, according to testimony.
The others joined in the attack. Chew attempted to break loose and run away and asked why he was being attacked, according to the teens' testimony. They said Elahi ran up and started striking Chew in the abdomen. He then handed the knife off to one of the others.
In the courtroom Wednesday, Judge Patrick J. Clifford asked Elahi a series of questions to ensure that he understood he was giving up his right to a trial. Elahi, who several months ago started wearing dark-framed glasses to his court appearances, held his hand over his mouth for much of the proceeding but stood tall and answered, "Yes, sir," and "No, sir" at the appropriate times.
"At a trial, the state would have had to prove that with the intent to cause the death of another person, you caused the death of another person," Clifford explained.
Though Elahi disputes that intent, he conceded that he probably would have been convicted if he went to trial. Now that his case has been resolved, the state will attempt to negotiate plea agreements with the other defendants, all of whom remain incarcerated.
The police had initially said Singleton also had stabbed Chew. Carney said he could not comment on whether the state would pursue that charge or would treat him, like the others, as an accessory to Chew's murder.