10-year sentences in Curling Club arson

LITCHFIELD — The two men who set the arson fire that destroyed the Norfolk Curling Club were sentenced Thursday, Dec. 13, at Litchfield Superior Court to 10 years in prison followed by five years probation. The sentencing came four days before the one-year anniversary of the fire.

The men were looking at a minimum sentence of seven years and a maximum of 15 years.

Matthew Carey of Torrington and Kyle Majewski of Sandisfield, Mass., were childhood best friends who went out on the afternoon of Dec. 17, 2011, planning to do some Christmas shopping. They were both 19 years old at the time.

They ended up buying and taking the synthetic marijuana product known as K2 in combination with a caffeinated and highly alcoholic beverage called Four Loko and two 40-ounce bottles of beer.

That night, the two went out on a spree of what started as vandalism (stealing signs and mailboxes) and devolved into breaking and entering and arson.

They broke into two houses and set one of them on fire. They also broke into a pumphouse that supplies water to the central business area in town and tampered with switches there, although they did not stop the water from flowing.

Their next stop was the Norfolk Curling Club, a metal shed that held the ice curling rink as well irreplaceable items collected in the years since the club was built in 1956.

After setting the fire there, they took off in their car, attempted to break into another house, found that someone was home and took off at high speed down a dark back road. They crashed their car and called 911 for assistance.

Before police arrived, they hid items they had stolen from the curling club (including all of the club’s portable fire extinguishers) in the woods. According to testimony from both men, they also then planned out a story to tell police and agreed they would say that a deer had run out in front of their car (a Subaru Impreza that Majewski had recently purchased with money he’d earned working for Infinity Hall in Norfolk and Alcoa Howmet in Winsted).

The men were arrested that night and both have remained in prison. Both were charged with numerous counts of burglary, criminal mischief, conspiracy to interfere with a police officer, reckless endangerment, larceny and arson. They both pleaded guilty to some charges and not guilty to others.

Judge James Ginocchio heard arguments for both defendants separately in the Thursday morning hearing. Carey’s hearing was first, but Majewski was brought into the courtroom to hear four people from Norfolk talk about the damage and destruction the two men had caused that night of Dec. 17 and into the morning of Dec. 18.

Starling Childs of Norfolk, whose family helped build and create the curling club, described many of the irreplaceable items that were lost because of the fire.

Firefighter and competitive curler Jonathan Barbagalo said he had thought many times what he would save from the curling club in the event of a fire. He never dreamed that an arson fire would destroy the building so quickly and completely that nothing could be salvaged.

Norfolk First Selectman Susan Dyer said the men’s actions had caused more than $1 million in damage, and she noted that they had tampered with the public water supply. She also noted how fortunate it was for everyone that no one died or was badly injured in any of the fires.

Paul Provost, whose house was destroyed by the fire, said it would probably cost about $500,000 to finally get his house rebuilt. He and his partner, Pepe Lopez, have spent most of the last year entangled with builders, insurance companies and lawyers.

He also made a comment that was repeated by the judge and by all the plaintiffs: The two men had destroyed the sense of safety and security that was an important part of life in Norfolk.

Carey was sentenced first and was given 10 years, with possibility of probation in five. This was the maximum sentence and was given repeatedly for several of the charges, but all of his sentences will be served concurrently.

Before sentencing he read a statement saying how sorry he was and that he hopes to make restitution to everyone whose property was destroyed.

Majewski was portrayed throughout the two sentencing hearings as the one who masterminded the spree.

He, too, stood up and read a prepared statement, expressing his sorrow and his regret, his determination to lead a better life and, above all, the sorrow he feels at the pain he has caused his family. He wept throughout the reading of his statement.

His father’s closest friend, a longtime teacher who is currently an art teacher at Torrington High School, also read a statement calling Majewski a good person. The things he did that night were in no way characteristic, he said. As he spoke he wept and his hands shook.

Majewski’s father also stood and spoke and wept. He blamed his son’s actions that night on the effects of the K2 and Four Loko.

Ginocchio said before giving the sentence, he would give both men the same sentence with the slight difference that Majewski will also be required to do community service when he is released from prison. Both men are now 20 years old.