Worcester man gets 15-17 years for fatally botched drug deal

Worcester man gets 15-17 years for fatally botched drug deal
Worcester man gets 15-17 years for fatally botched drug deal
nGary V. Murray Telegram & Gazette Staff @GaryMurrayTG WORCESTER ; Charged with fatally shooting one man and wounding another during what authorities said was a drug deal gone bad, Matthew L. Pye was sentenced to 15 to 17 years in state prison Friday after pleading guilty to manslaughter, armed assault with intent to murder and carrying a firearm without a license as an armed career criminal.

The sentence imposed by Judge Janet Kenton-Walker in Worcester Superior Court was recommended by Assistant District Attorney Christopher P. Hodgens and Mr. Pye’s lawyer, Randall K. Power.

Mr. Pye, 32, of 1 Prospect St., had been charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 16, 2015, shooting death of 24-year-old Shane Bennett on Newbury Street, but prosecutors reduced the murder charge to voluntary manslaughter as part of a plea agreement.

According to Mr. Hodgens, Simon Holley and Jeffrey Johnson, both of Worcester, arranged for the sale of a pound of marijuana to Mr. Pye for $2,600 on the night of Aug. 16, 2015. Mr. Holley recruited Mr. Bennett to assist in the transaction, according to the prosecutor.

Mr. Holley, accompanied by Mr. Bennett, brought a laundry bag containing clothing, not marijuana, to a prearranged meeting with Mr. Pye and Mr. Johnson in the area of 10 Newbury St., Mr. Hodgens said.  Mr. Holley and Mr. Bennett pulled handguns on Mr. Pye and stole the $2,600 he had in his wallet, according to the assistant district attorney.

Mr. Pye then brandished his own firearm and fired at least once, Mr. Hodgens said. Mr. Holley suffered a gunshot wound to his hand, and Mr. Bennett was shot in the back and later died, the prosecutor told the court.

Mr. Holley and Mr. Johnson are awaiting trial on armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery charges in the case. Mr. Holley is additionally charged with carrying a firearm without a license as an armed career criminal. Both have pleaded not guilty.

After the shooting, Mr. Hodgens said, Mr. Holley and Mr. Pye fled. Mr. Johnson began to flee, but then asked a bystander if there were any surveillance cameras in the area, according to the prosecutor. After being told there were none, Mr. Johnson said to someone on his cellphone, “We’re good. Nothing here,” Mr. Hodgens said.

After police arrived, Mr. Johnson alerted Detective Mark Richardson to a wallet on the ground containing Mr. Pye’s identification, according to the assistant district attorney. In the meantime, he said, a friend of Mr. Holley’s drove him to an apartment in Worcester. Mr. Holley was in possession of two handguns and a wad of cash, Mr. Hodgens said.

He said Mr. Holley directed his friend to count the money, divide it in two, and deliver half of it, $1,324, to a man outside a pizza shop on Grafton Street who was identified by Mr. Holley’s friend as Mr. Johnson.

The friend then drove Mr. Holley to Maine, where investigators located him in a motel room in which $1,395 in cash was found, according to Mr. Hodgens.

Mr. Pye, who was apprehended three days later, told police he was on Newbury Street on the night in question smoking marijuana with a friend he would not name, the prosecutor said. Mr. Pye allegedly told detectives he heard shots and ran, dropping his wallet, but did not know who did the shooting or why.

Investigators reviewed Mr. Holley’s cellphone records, which showed a series of calls between Mr. Johnson and Mr. Holley both before and after the shooting, according to Mr. Hodgens.  

In an impact statement read in court, Shaleebra Cropper, the mother of Mr. Bennett’s two daughters, said the older of the two children, 4 at the time, was devastated by her father’s death.

“Even though Shane was young and made certain choices in life, he was the best father. He loved them with everything in him. My children have to grow up knowing he’s never coming back,” she told Judge Kenton-Walker.

“I hope you give him the maximum time that he deserves because my children have to go through a lifetime without their father,” Ms. Cropper said to the judge. 

The maximum sentence for manslaughter and armed assault with intent to murder is 20 years in state prison. The firearm charge to which Mr. Pye pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.

“This was a complex chain of events that unfolded in a way that none of the parties fully anticipated that night,” Mr. Hodgens said, crediting Worcester detectives for the “excellent police work” that led to the arrests of Mr. Pye, Mr. Holley and Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Power said his client was accepting full responsibility for his actions and noted that Mr. Pye is the named victim in the indictments pending against Mr. Holley and Mr. Johnson.

“He was the initial victim that night,” the defense lawyer said of Mr. Pye.

Before imposing the recommended sentences, concurrent terms of 15 to 17 years for manslaughter and armed assault with intent to murder and a concurrent prison term of 12 to 15 years on the firearm charge, Judge Kenton-Walker told Ms. Cropper, “I cannot bring back your loved one, no matter what sentence I give.”

The judge stayed the execution of Mr. Pye’s sentence until Feb. 16 and ordered that he remain in custody without bail at the Norfolk County Correctional Center until then, when he will begin his state prison sentence. Mr. Pye was given credit for 910 days he will have spent in custody by the time he begins serving the prison term.

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Shaleebra Cropper had to sit her 4-year-old daughter down in August 2015 and tell her that she would never see her father again.

“To have to explain to a 4-year-old she would never see her dad, her best friend, again was probably the hardest thing I had to do in life,” Cropper wrote in an impact statement that she read in Worcester Superior Court on Friday.

“I can’t even describe in words how devastated she was,” Cropper continued, trembling and sobbing. “She cried for days, had sleepless nights, even had accidents in bed.”

Shane Bennett, who had two daughters with Cropper, was fatally shot in Worcester on Aug. 16, 2015. 

“Every day without him is a struggle,” Cropper said. “I hope karma takes its course and God does his work because we will never forgive you.”

Bennett, 24, was part of a drug deal that went bad. Authorities say that Matthew Pye arranged that August night to purchase a pound of marijuana for $2,600 from Jeffrey Johnson and Simon Holley. 

On the way to the Newbury Street deal, Holley recruited Bennett to assist, according to prosecutor Christopher Hodgens. Holley and Bennett ended up pulling handguns on Pye, who then pulled out a firearm and shot.

Pye struck Holley in the hand and Bennett in the back. the bullet punctured his aorta and killed him.

Hodgens called it a complex chain of events that required excellent police work.

Pye, 32, was initially charged with murder. As a part of his plea deal, the charge was dropped to manslaughter. He is additionally charged with possession of a firearm and armed assault with intent to murder.

Judge Janet Kenton-Walker sentenced Pye to no less than 15 years and no more than 17 years in prison. He will receive 910 days credit for time served.

“Mr. Pye comes to this court accepting full responsibilities for his actions that night,” his attorney, Randall K. Power. “He was the initial victim that night. His actions thereafter he is accepting responsibility for right now.”

Pye is a named victim in two pending indictments against two co-defendants, Power told the court.

“Even though Shane was young and made certain choices in his life he was the best father,” Cropper told the court.

“To know that you, yourself a father, took another took another father’s life is disgusting,” she said. “I really truly and honestly hope your daughter never forgives you, not only because you ruined my girls’ life but you ruined hers as well.”

Cropper said she has struggled to make ends meet, working to play the roles of both a mother and father to her daughters.

Kenton-Walker, after sentencing Pye, said this was a senseless set of crimes.

“I cannot bring back your loved one no matter what sentence I could give,” she said. “I also recognize that it is not going to bring you solace in your life. That’s something that you’ll have to come to terms with and I wish I could give that to you but I cannot.”

In a written impact statement, Cropper’s mother wrote that Bennett loved his daughters so much and that they would all light up “like Christmas trees” when they saw each other.

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