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Norwich man to serve 15 years for crippling car owner during theft attempt

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A 48-year-old man who twice ran over a man while attempting to steal a car from a Jewett City convenience store on March 25, 2019, was sentenced Wednesday in New London Superior Court to 15 years in prison.

Matthew Kelly, a former Norwich resident in custody at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, had pleaded guilty to first-degree assault for the crime, which left the victim, a 67-year-old who had recently retired, confined to a wheelchair.

Judge Hillary B. Strackbein imposed the sentence of 20 years in prison, suspended after 15 years served, followed by five years of probation after reminding Kelly, who has a lengthy criminal record that includes convictions for burglary, larceny and drunken driving, that he had inflicted permanent damage on an innocent man.

The victim did not attend the sentencing hearing, but told a victim services advocate he is not satisfied with the sentence Kelly received.

Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney and attorney Michael Miller from the public defender's office had worked out a plea deal that provided a prison term five years short of the maximum 20 years for first-degree assault while enabling state supervision of Kelly by the Department of Adult Probation for five years upon his release from prison.

"This is a terribly difficult case," Carney said. "We know that the 15-year jail sentence does not compensate the victim for his suffering."

According to court documents, the victim left his Ford Focus unlocked with the engine running while he went inside the Country Farms convenience store to buy a newspaper and milk.

Kelly got into the victim's car and was backing up when the store clerk told the owner, "Hey look, he's stealing your car." The victim went outside as the car was backing up.

After backing into a chain link fence, police said Kelly drove forward and struck the victim, who landed on the hood of the car. Kelly drove out of the parking lot and over a sidewalk, tossing the victim off the car and onto Main Street. Kelly proceeded to drive forward over the victim and then backed up over him, police said in an arrest warrant affidavit. The incident was captured on video surveillance cameras in the area.

The victim suffered hip fractures that required multiple surgeries and injuries to his groin and trachea. During his getaway, police said Kelly additionally struck another vehicle.

In a statement to police, Kelly said he drank four 24-ounce Natty Daddy beers, sniffed the antidepressant drug Wellbutrin and was on the phone fighting with his girlfriend. He also took the prescription sleep medication Remeron that day.

Kelly told police he wanted to kill himself that night and remembers aiming the car at a tree while driving. He told police he didn't remember anything else.

k.florin@theday.com

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