Thursday, December 5, 2013
By Betty Adams firstname.lastname@example.org
AUGUSTA — Images of Justin V. Smith’s life flashed on a screen Wednesday as the man who killed him was brought into Kennebec County Superior Court.
Brenda Smith addresses Matthew Partridge Wednesday morning as he is sentenced for the shooting death of Smith's son, Justin. A slideshow of Justin V. Smith's life played behind his mother at Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta as she described the impact his death had upon her family.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
Staff photo by David Leaming
Smith, of South China, was 26 when he was shot in the face outside a Waterville pub last December by Matthew Partridge, 30, of Winslow. Partridge pleaded guilty to manslaughter Wednesday and will serve at least 15 years in prison.
Dozens of images appeared on the projection screen as Smith’s mother, Brenda Smith, told the judge of the trauma caused by her son’s death. The pictures were of a smiling Smith with his family at home on a couch with an afghan stretched across the back, posing outside near snowmobiles, playing in a pool, wearing a red devil costume for Halloween and interacting with his own son, Tucker.
Brenda Smith and others who spoke in court repeatedly referred to Partridge as a coward. Partridge shot at Smith twice after Smith punched him in the face while Partridge sat in his pickup truck.
“We believe Justin was intentionally murdered. That coward, he had so many choices. Why didn’t he just leave?” she asked, adding, “He knew he had that gun in his car and he knew what he was going to do with it.”
She referred briefly to Partridge’s military training: “He knew exactly what shot to take to take my son’s life.”
As Brenda Smith spoke, many of the people in the courtroom wiped their eyes with their hands or tissues.
“We, his family, are proud of him,” she said. “We hold our heads high when we talk about Justin.”
More than two dozen of the victim’s friends and relatives watched the hearing, and several occasionally hollered comments of disapproval.
Two other people who sat in a separate area of the courtroom said they were there for Partridge.
Partridge was charged initially with murder, but he accepted a deal to plead guilty to manslaughter.
Under a recommendation supported jointly by state and defense attorneys and approved by the judge, Partridge was sentenced to 25 years in prison, with all but 15 years suspended, and four years’ probation. The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 30 years in prison, Justice Michaela Murphy said. Murphy was scheduled to preside over Partridge’s jury-waived trial, which was to begin on Monday.
The balding Partridge was brought into court in shackles, and the handcuffs were removed as he sat with his attorneys, Pamela Ames and Brad Grant.
“Guilty, ma’am,” Partridge told Murphy when she asked for his plea to the manslaughter charge.
Except for short “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” responses to the judge’s questions, he said nothing publicly.
The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, described how the shooting occurred late on Dec. 4. “This was the tail end of a barroom brawl,” he said.
Benson said there was an altercation about a cigarette that witnesses said did not involve Partridge or Smith.
Smith had been out that night with two other men, Joshua Broad and Christopher Oxley, according to an affidavit filed by Maine State Police Detective Joshua Birmingham. Broad and Oxley were approached outside the pub by two strangers, later identified as Tucker Foxwell and Partridge.
One of the men punched Oxley in the face, but that fight ended after Oxley said he had a concealed weapons permit. Broad and Oxley went into the pub to get Smith, Birmingham said, and the trio came out and approached Partridge’s Dodge Dakota pickup.
Benson said Smith asked Partridge, “Who liked to sucker punch people?” and punched Partridge in the nose as Partridge was sitting in the driver’s seat of his truck.
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