Manchester man jailed for best friend's death in fatal 2011 crash
BRENTWOOD - A Manchester man was sentenced Wednesday four to eight years in state prison for causing a fatal car crash that killed his best friend, 24-year-old Anthony Mathieu, in Derry.
Mathieu's mother, Lynette Shinsato, told Judge Kenneth McHugh how she asked John Mitchell, 25, to be the designated driver on the night of the Oct. 23, 2011 crash, and is struggling with forgiveness after Mitchell tried to trick police into thinking he was not behind the wheel.
"My faith and my belief system have been shaken," Shinsato said. "Will God forgive me for not forgiving the actions of another?"
Mitchell pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, aggravated drunken driving and reckless conduct on Nov. 29 for killing Mathieu and injuring another passenger. Mathieu was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, after Mitchell's 2006 Honda Civic went off of Old Manchester Road in Derry about 1:50 a.m., struck a tree and rolled over.
Assistant County Attorney Brad Bolton argued for a six- to 12-year sentence, saying the broken promise to Mathieu's mother, and Mitchell's claim of not being the driver warranted a longer-than-average prison term.
"That kind of shows you something - what type of character, what type of man he is," Bolton told McHugh in Rockingham County Superior Court.
Mitchell climbed into the back seat and maintained - even while at the hospital - that someone else drove the vehicle, Bolton said.
Another passenger, Brooke Scott, 20, was injured during the crash.
Anthony Mathieu was one of three brothers who served in the military during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A 2005 graduate of Memorial High School in Manchester, Mathieu enlisted in the Marines and served two tours of duty in Iraq between 2007 and 2008.
He had been out of the service for two years, going to college at Southern New Hampshire University and working at his family business, Capital Auto Auction in Manchester, at the time of the crash, according to his mother.
Mitchell turned to Shinsato in court and apologized for his actions, saying she and Mathieu had been like a second family to him.
"To say I left a brother behind, I can't refute that," he said, "but I loved Anthony, no matter what my poor judgment shows. For the rest of my life, I will love him."
McHugh spoke about the challenges he has faced in crafting sentences for negligent homicide cases during his 35 years on the bench, especially when there was no intent to end someone's life.
He said if he knew that a 50-year sentence would bring Mathieu back, "I would impose that sentence. That would probably be true justice."
McHugh said while a four-year minimum might sound like a light punishment to some, "Mr. Mitchell will be associated with a whole of bad people. It's not a lifestyle he is used to."
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Paul Lundwall said:
This type of situation must be extremely difficult on everyone especially the families loved ones. I believe that the driver has a life sentence for his actions as he will be living with this the rest of his life. I do think that in time forgiveness is paramount in moving forward. I have never been in a position like this and I hope that I never will be. To all parties the victims loved ones, the judge, jury and the driver pray for the others!
March 21, 2013 2:34 am
Brian St. Onge said:
A 4 year sentence for killing someone while driving drunk is nothing more than a slap on the wrist - and a feeble one at that. In four years or less, this guy will be out in the world free to continue his life and pursue his dreams. That day will never come for the victim. A sentence like this for negligent homicide not only doesn't serve as deterrent for this type of irresponsible behavior, it also sends the message that if you drive drunk and happen to kill someone you run the risk of being inconvenienced for a few years and that's about it. We wonder why crime is all around us these days??? Sentences like this are one big reason. And for the judge to say "....while a four-year minimum might sound like a light punishment to some, "Mr. Mitchell will be associated with a whole of bad people. It's not a lifestyle he is used to" is a disgrace. He's going to be with "a whole lot of bad people" and that's supposed to be justice or supposed to justify a slap-on-the-wrist sentence? I wonder if Judge NcHugh's son was the one killed by the irresponsible actions of this driver if he would still feel that a four year sentence was justice served.
March 21, 2013 5:39 am
Steve Johnson said:
I really don't like the idea that families get a say in court before sentencing. How many times has a defendant gotten a lighter sentence because the family says the drunk driver was like a brother to the deceased? I understand the cathartic nature of such a statement, but it was not the family vs. the accused, it was the state vs. the accused. So when the accused is convicted, it is up to the judge to protect the people, the ordinary public, not the family, when they hand down a sentence. This judge did not do that. Mitchell's previous actions show that he is exactly the type to drive drunk again later, and should have been sentenced to a much longer term.
March 21, 2013 7:15 am
debbie wilber said:
@ Sally Munson,,, Sally you sound like a very angry person,, I have seen many of your post and all seem heartless... not often do you have anything nice to say. Take one second and try to put yourself or possibly your own child in this situation,,, I am sure you would feel nicer...
March 21, 2013 8:21 am
scott scheurich said:
I agree Paul , It was the guys best friend I cant imagine what he must be going through, the families the friends . And Sally have you ever used poor judgement, they were both drinking and this was a terrible accident and as wrong as he was for driving it was an accident he killed his best friend by accident and he has to live with that for the rest of his life , But he is not a murderer. You are putting him in the same catergory as someone who points a gun at someone and says bye bye. He deserves to be punished but he is not a murderer
March 21, 2013 8:38 am
sally munson said:
I never had to put myself in this mans shoes ever!...All I ever had to think of was what the after math might be if I drove drunk and got into an accident and either badly hurt or killed someone because of my selfish act. I take the responsibility of driving very seriously. I have never once had any speeding tickets, or any infractions against my driving record. Am I perfect hell no.But when I'm driving my hands are behind a machine that can hurt or kill an innocent person. If any of my 3 children ever did this, They should be charged accordingly. There is never any excuse to drink and drive. In fact my 30 yr old son got charged with a DUI when he was 23 ..... I did not bail him out, I did not drive him to and from work, I did not give him 1 cent for his defense. We talked about not drinking and riving constantly. He knew I was pissed beyond words. All I had to say to him one time after this, was imagine your little sister being badly hurt or killed by a drunk driver......That was the last time he ever drove drunk. These drivers who get caught drinking and driving always get a slap on the wrist and that's why so many people do not take this seriously. I stand by with what I said and will always stand by it. If my post's always seem like I'm angry it's because of stupid people like this. I agree with Steve Johnson's last comment :Mitchell's previous actions show that he is exactly the type to drive drunk again later, and should have been sentenced to a much longer term. I am far from a heartless person, as my door is always open to countless friends of my 17yr old, and way too many times that I can remember have I gone out in the middle of the night to get them away from situations at their home. I'm just tired of people not being held accountable for their stupid, senseless actions
March 21, 2013 9:16 am
sally munson said:
What make me the madest is that he lied through his teeth, that he was not the driver. He has too much of a little boy mentality for not owning up to his actions. You make a promise, of being the DD and he could not even keep that simple promise. I wonder if any of you who have said this was an accident would feel the same way if it was a loved one of yours?..... Trust me... you won't!
March 21, 2013 9:22 am
Ken Johnson said:
Sally M, you are absolutely correct. Never mind that he broke a promise, drove drunk and killed someone. He then lied on top of it. And I disagree that he didn't intend to kill anyone. You are fully aware of the consequences if you drink and then get behind the wheel of a car. If one of these drunk drivers was given a life sentence(the same sentence as their dead victim) maybe then it would have some effect on this issue. Until then, slaps on the wrists like this piece of crap got will never stop the carnage of drinking and driving.
March 21, 2013 9:27 am
Lynn Morse said:
Sorry to say, I agree 100% with Sally here! Accountability for these types of actions are non existent. Yeah, you're right Scott, he didn't point a gun and pull the trigger, what he did was far worse... he put the lives of his so called best friend, 'like a brother to me' and the other girl in harm's way by sticking a key into the ignition of a car and turning it! So, as an analogy... I will say that he played Russian Roulette and his best friend lost and the girl and himself won. Although there was no 'intent', there was the risk!
March 21, 2013 10:07 am
jaylee manly said:
I guess I would like to know what the judge's defination of a "bad person" is? One who lies and betrays trust perhaps?Uusally I have alittle more sympathy for these kind of cases, but, this poor woman, worries herself through 2 tours of duty, then gets this nightmare. Since she had already arranged for one designated driver, it is not a stretch to think that one phone call, and she would have either come herself, or sent someone to pick them up. I guess being moridly obese goes far in the eyes of Justice.
March 21, 2013 11:15 am
Bob Hawkins said:
So when was the victim bound and gagged and forced into the front seat with a totally bombed driver? As if it couldn't have easily been the other way around? It sucks for everyone involved. Sally Munson? Whats going on there in that head? If I had to guess your really poor.
March 21, 2013 12:31 pm
Bob Hawkins said:
So in essence Sally judging by your sons actions, the only reason your son isn't doing life for DWI murder is chance? Why are you attacking his weight issue? Get those meds adjusted.
March 21, 2013 12:34 pm
David Shaughnessy said:
You guys are ready to throw this kid in prison for the rest of his life for murder? Although tragic its nowhere close to murder. Mathieu, was a Marine, a big boy people who knew the driver was drinking. He got into the car on his own, and I can say when I was on AD we did some stupid things too. The driver has to live with the fact that his actions caused the death of his best friend and it certainly could have been the other way around. This wasn't murder it was stupidity all the way around. RIP Devil Dog!!
March 21, 2013 1:01 pm
sarah carr said:
This is a tragedy, all around. Unfortunately, it was a very preventable tragedy. Choices were made resulting in the death of this young man. My heart breaks for his mother, and I do feel that a 4-8 year sentence is quite lenient for making a choice that resulted in an accident that took the life of your best friend. Any words of apology or love from John Mitchell for the victim here seem equal to slapping a band aid over a gaping wound. Now having said that, I have two questions? One, who are earth is responsible for editing these articles?! I find it difficult to believe that the actual quote from the judge was, "Mitchell will be associated with a whole of bad people"...is there a word missing, perhaps? Also, what is with the weight remarks? His weight has nothing to do with his actions, or his punishment. Let it go, people! I feel like I'm at recess right now with some of the juvenile jabs at the guy's weight.
March 21, 2013 1:17 pm
George LeMont said:
And with legal pot on the way we can expect more such drivers on our roads, and with the governments blessing.
March 21, 2013 5:26 pm
Linda Brown said:
Four yrs is a joke!!! At the scene he was a coward, pretending that someone else was driving the car. he did not want to man up and admit he was the driver because he knew his sorry hide would go to prison!!! What a loser!!! He kills his best friend, he knows at the scene he has died and lies through his tooth and the best the judge can come up with is 4-8? Watch, he will be out in a yr because the DOC will claim the prison is overcrowded??? He is only sorry his own fat **** got arrested, the remorse he shows is for himself. Now the judge is correct, I am sure he has never been around hardened criminals before, well he is now one of them, a criminal where he will only be known as a DOC number. I have the deepest sympathy for the victim's family and please Mom, don't feel guilty, you trusted this loser with your son's life, you thought your son was safe with him, no one should ever fault you for that, I sure don't. I am so sorry you lost your child, putting this loser in prison will not bring him back, but at least as crummy as the sentence is, at least he won't be having a lot of fun behind bars. I do hope when he gets out, that he never picks up a drink again and the hope is that he tries to make something of himself such as going around to schools and letting students know the dangers of drinking and driving and the price that you could pay like someone's life?? I feel nothing but contempt and disgust towards losers like him as I lost my first boyfriend to a drunk driver, he had just graduated from high school that night and was going on to college and you might as well say my life ended that night too as that is when the abuse my mother was heaping on me and the death of Denny, I ran away and some of you know what happens to me after that. I had known Denny from the second we moved to VT from NJ! We became good friends even though he was 4 yrs older than me and one night, we realized we were more than friends and three months later he is dead. There was no such thing as counseling back then, myself and his broken hearted family were expected as my awful mother said to me, that life has to go on and of course she did not like him much as his family was not rich, in fact, his dad worked for mine so he was trailer trash to her? The scum that killed him ended up paralyzed from the neck down and while he did go to jail, not as much as this loser just got!!! And this loser once he got out, all he did was DRINK till he finally died!!! I hope this fool here does not do the same. I do not know if he will end up at NHSP, don't they have jobs and therapy programs there??? I do not think it has hit him yet, that he will be a convicted felon when he gets out and jobs will be not be beating down his door looking to hire him?? In a sense, two families have been altered by his bad decision, his family now has been shamed and the victim's family has to live without him, so really any amount of prison time will never be enough, you can't put a price on a human life.
March 21, 2013 6:19 pm
Lynn Williams said:
Where I completely symphonize for Anthony's Mother as a Mother, we are not meant to loose our children...we are not built that way. I must write in some facts as you readers are tearing apart John or Mitch as his friends call him. For instance.. one of the MANY reasons why Mitch was the driver that night was because Anthony had been charged with a DUI and lost his License. ( but they don't talk about that in the media or court room do they?)..Or the fact that Anthony's Mother was 100% behind John for the first 6-8 months after this accident...she even wrote and letter to the judge to ask for mercy on him. But the world got to her...people told her she should be mad and vengeful ( not that I blame her...again I cant even imagine what she is going through) Mitch has since got his life right on track, he hasn't picked up a bottle since, He enrolled in school full time, and got a full time job.But the most important fact...is that Anthony, would have NEVER wanted this for Mitch. They were more than friends. They were brothers. They had a strong bond and to write things like " Justice was served" is wrong. Anyone who knew Anthony knows that he is crying for his friend in heaven right now... Mitch if you are reading this, stay strong Brother. People love and care about you out here. As we do Anthony. I know you are scared. We are all pulling for you. Waiting till the day you get out...And on a side note Shame on you people for judging a situation you don't know, a person you don't know.
March 21, 2013 7:11 pm
Aki Mathieu said:
^ FalseI know Anthony quite well - I doubt he is crying.~Aki
March 21, 2013 7:44 pm
Linda Brown said:
Lynn, I know why some people are quick to judge as the article does not state that Mitch has tried to get his act together before he was sentenced today, no mention of what you speak of and if this is the case and he won't pick up a drink again when he gets out, that will be some form of atonement on his part. But he has to now pay the price for his bad choices like so many other drunk drivers have had to do. Now I think I know why he did not escape prison time is because of his cowardly stance the night of the accident. He tried to CLAIM there was another driver, even went so far as to be in the back seat when LE showed up? No way is this the action of someone who was remorseful! He did not man up and admit he was the driver and my take on that, is he is a loser!!! Sorry, but that is how I am calling this!!! Now Anthony's mother believed him at first so you have to understand her anguish and pain that her son's "brother" as you call him lies to her and the police about where he was that night? I can understand her rage now, she trusted this man with her precious child, and then she finds out he lies???? SO now maybe you can have some insight as to why people are angry and disgusted!! He might not have ended up with those 4 yrs had he been honest from the start???? He might have been able to be house arrest and probation after that, no I think the judge sentenced as best as he saw fit, to me the sentence is too light and I base this on his lies, I would have given him at least 10 yrs and no chance of parole till he serves those 10 yrs so he is lucky I am not the judge, however, I am judging him a loser because of his actions that night.
March 21, 2013 7:55 pm
Mike Kelly said:
At least he seems to like the prison food.....
March 21, 2013 9:00 pm
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