BRENTWOOD — John Mitchell and Anthony Mathieu were the best of friends, always at each other’s side.
Or at least until a tragic early morning accident in Derry 17 months ago.
That’s when Mitchell, 25, betrayed his longtime friend and lied to police as he sat in an ambulance after crashing his Honda Civic on Old Manchester Road shortly before 2 a.m. on Oct. 23, 2011.
The Manchester man told police he didn’t know the driver, saying he fled the crash — even though it was really him. Mitchell climbed from the driver’s seat into the back seat, and neglected to tell rescuers about Mathieu, 24, who was later found dead beneath the crushed car.
But Mitchell was apologetic yesterday as Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Kenneth McHugh sentenced him to four to eight years in state prison.
“I loved Anthony — no matter what my poor judgment showed,” he said of the Goffstown man. “He has been the most important person in my life.”
Mitchell pleaded guilty Nov. 29 to negligent homicide and reckless conduct charges as part of a plea bargain.
He has been free after initially being held on $100,000 cash bail. Mitchell waved to sobbing family members and friends, then Mathieu’s family and friends as he was led out of the courtroom by a sheriff’s deputy.
“I meant no harm,” he said moments earlier. “It was poor judgment. I’m sorry.”
The same man who has admitted he was extremely intoxicated when he caused the crash that killed his friend told the dead man’s family Mathieu was like a brother to him and they were his second family.
“I couldn’t say that enough,” he said. “Both families are going to be suffering a great loss no matter what.”
Mathieu’s mother, Lynette Shinsato, stood before the judge and told of how her son’s death has devastated his family, including his two brothers, Andre and Aki Mathieu.