Men enter guilty pleas in party death case

Matthew Chandler, left, and Kyle Gonzalez, both of Naugatuck, entered guilty pleas in connection with an assault linked to the death of Salomon Martinez. –CONTRIBUTED
Matthew Chandler, left, and Kyle Gonzalez, both of Naugatuck, entered guilty pleas in connection with an assault linked to the death of Salomon Martinez. –CONTRIBUTED

WATERBURY — Two Naugatuck men accused of chasing a man who died after a four-story plunge from a window during a party-gone-wrong have pleaded guilty to their roles in the slaying.

Matthew Chandler had faced a murder charge in connection with the death of Salomon Martinez who died after he was injured at a Naugatuck home in 2013.

As part of a plea deal, Chandler, 23, pleaded no contest on Tuesday to first-degree manslaughter and conspiracy to commit first-degree assault after making a brief appearance in Waterbury Superior Court. Chandler will be sentenced to 10 years in prison and 10 years special parole as part of the deal.

The fight that led up to Martinez’s fall erupted after two men lost a $10 wager that was placed on a game of beer pong, which is a drinking game played with cups, pingpong balls and a table.

Several men at the party swung at each other, bottles were thrown and a fish tank was shattered during the brawl at 8 Pond St., in which at least one person was briefly knocked unconscious, witnesses told police.

During that chaos, a witness told police that Chandler and Kyle Gonzalez chased Martinez up a set of stairs and into a child’s bedroom where he tried to shut the door on his pursuers. At least one of the men was armed with a knife and stabbed at the door.

At some point, Martinez, of Stratford, plummeted from the window, but it’s unclear how that occurred.

Martinez, 24, suffered massive injuries, including broken legs, a fractured skull and organ damage by the time emergency responders made it to him. He was on life support in the intensive care unit for more than a week before his death.

The apartment was a wreck when police arrived — shards of glass were on the floor, blood smears were on the wall and the lower half of a fourth-floor bedroom window was shattered.

Though Chandler had faced a murder charge and will receive less prison time than Gonzalez, prosecutor Terence Mariani said Tuesday that Gonzalez took primary responsibility for Martinez’s death, admitting that he went into the room as he chased Martinez. Chandler was bleeding from a cut he received during the fighting, but investigators didn’t find his blood in the bedroom, Mariani said.

Chandler has been jailed for about three years on a $245,000 bond since his arrest.

Gonzalez, 23, also took a plea deal Friday on identical charges as Chandler, but will serve 15 years in prison for the killing, followed by 5 years of probation.

Chandler’s attorney, Ioannis Kaloidis, said Chandler never entered the room and was acting in self-defense during the brawl.

“If anything, Matthew was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Kaloidis said.

Chandler, wearing a white T-shirt and a faded orange jumpsuit that was rolled over his waist, said little during the hearing. None of Martinez’s family or friends were in the courtroom when Chandler pleaded to the charges, but they may speak at a later court hearing.

Chandler’s pleas mean he didn’t admit he was guilty, but was convicted of the crimes.

Gonzalez and Chandler will be sentenced on March 10. A lawsuit filed by Martinez’s mother is still pending against Gonzalez, the borough of Naugatuck and the property owners of the Pond Street home.