Matthew Pellegrini: Family Slams Plea Deal That Could Give Son's Accused Killer Seven Years

Tami Inkley, Matthew Pelligrini.jpg
Courtesy of Inkley
Tami Inkley and her son Matthew at graduation.
On Friday, we reported on Tami Inkley's campaign to get justice for her eighteen-year-old son Matthew, who police say was shot point-blank in the head by his friend Kevin Beindorff last year. Since then, the St. Louis Circuit Court Attorney's office and the defense have signed a plea agreement, on view below, that would give the suspect seven years in prison.

"This is extremely hard," Inkley, a 50-year-old Ballwin resident, tells Daily RFT. "This is a wound that hasn't even healed, and this is ripping the Band-Aid right back off."

What are the terms of the deal, and why is the prosecution agreeing to seven years -- against the family's wishes?

First, a quick recap: Beindorff, 21 at the time of the shooting last February, is accused of killing Pellegrini, a friend, inside a vehicle. The homicide case got national attention, because Beindorff told police that Pellegrini had "asked to be shot" -- a claim which the grieving family has repeatedly dismissed.

Now, one year later, instead of going to trial, it appears the case will head straight to sentencing next month after state prosecutors and the defense signed a plea deal on Friday -- in which the defendant admits to involuntary manslaughter.

Matthew Pellegrini image.jpg
Courtesy of Inkley
Matthew Pellegrini

That agreement, full version on view below, says in part:

In exchange for the defendant's voluntary plea of guilty in this cause, the parties agree that the following disposition is appropriate:

1. Seven (7) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
2. Three (3) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. (to run concurrent)...

The parties state that the facts in this case are as follows, and that the State of Missouri would prove these facts beyond a reasonable doubt:

On February 21, 2012, the defendant shot and killed Matthew Pellegrini. He put the gun to the head of Mr. Pellegrini and pulled the trigger shooting him one time in the head.

And Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce has released a lengthy statement about this decision, acknowledging the family's discontent.

Continue for Joyce's comments and for response from the family.

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This case offers distinct insight into what I call “The St. Louis Reality”. Let me start by saying that I have lived in, and or visited many big cities across this great nation. As a transplant since 1997, I can attest that StL is a most special city, with wonderful people who all deserve our compassion as human beings, as life itself. Our medical community, hospitals, and teaching universities are unparalleled. A large portion of student body who go to school here, stay here, which is great for our economy; recognizing this as area as having much to offer.

So, what is the “St. Louis Reality”? As a reporter, I don’t have to explain that to you, but here’s my perspective: Ranked at the top of the “Most Dangerous Cities in the US” list, there must be a reason for that, right? StL may not be ranked at the top ‘o the list in statistical gun homicides… not that we know of anyway… but it holds an appalling number of gun related deaths per capita regardless, and should be used as a “model” of sorts for other cities to explore important issues relevant to the rest of American society. Beindorff and his accessory tossed the shells and discussed throwing Matt’s body in the river. Considering the plea he was offered, and the point blank range death, gives me moral pause. It also makes one wonder just how many bodies line the bottom of the Mississippi around StL that never get reported, or are listed as “Missing Persons”. I’ll pass on the “fresh” local fish….

Here we stand in the middle of “The Great Gun Control Debate”, getting blocked at every turn, the NRA lobbying hard and funding their political buddies/bullies to stall & fight regulation every inch of the way. The majority is begging for regulation, while the minority is chuckling at our inability to gain momentum. Yet, the anti-control group keeps spinning the same old spiel “Hold the killer/shooter accountable, NOT the gun!” or “Guns don’t kill people, people do!”. We also stand in the middle of “The Great Mental Health Debate”, which is directly correlates to the gun debate.

In cases where the firearm killer is caught, brought to justice, the justice system often fails us. The plea system in this country thrives on “Classism” (let’s use that to include everyone, disabled, sexist, racist, etc.). In fact, comments on this story and others like it confirm my belief that classism is not only considered an acceptable mindset, but rampant in our society, as well as in the courts system. Wrong place, wrong time? Let’s blame the victim. Prostitute murdered by a john or her pimp? She knew her profession was dangerous, and must have “deserved” death, somehow.

The problem with classism (especially within the justice system) as I see it, is that it’s basically stating that a) some human life is more valuable than others (WRONG!), and b) “sometimes” it’s “okay” to murder someone in cold blood.  Unless you were forced to kill in self-defense, or save another, it is NEVER, EVER okay to take a human LIFE. What message are we sending the children of our future?

What’s an American to do? Talk about dysfunctional! We can’t seem to get any responsible, logical firearm regulations passed. Combine that with courts offering killers plea bargains that devalue the human life they took even further, and we are all left standing, mouths gaping, holding a bloody body bag of death. Even though the majority is literally begging for gun control, for stricter sentencing on violent crimes, no one seems to be listening, or care. “Yeah, yeah, we KNOW what the PEOPLE want, but THIS is how it IS”. Not good enough. If there’s NO regulation, and NO accountability for those that kill indiscriminately, it’s no wonder we’re in the top ten of most dangerous cities to live in. There’s NO accountability to be found anywhere. Unless you decide to blame the victim.

Why was a psychiatric mental health evaluation ordered only AFTER the plea was offered and accepted? Why was this not done immediately to ascertain Beindorff’s mental status at the time of the actual crime? Why was the victim’s family kept out of “the loop” until nearly the week of the hearing? I understand the court dockets are full, and cases have to move along timely; there’s not much time allowed for due diligence with numbers like these.

After reading Jennifer Joyce’s statement regarding this case, she said “On a rare occasion like this, the opinions regarding a course of action to achieve justice between prosecutors and a victim’s family differs.” Rare occasion? Since when? Is she so out of touch with victim’s families? Are all the families and victim’s advocacy groups not being loud enough? We can’t “win” on either side, and until we are recognized as The Voice of the People, more victims will die senseless deaths, and the NRA will continue to blame the shooter, while the courts continue to blame the victim. Classism: alive and well in The State of MO! 

I believe in second chances for most non violent cases, and understand life in crime-laden areas, and the human condition. But if we allow the courts to continue offering soft pleas on violent crimes, we’ll need to order a lot more body bags. I would like the judge to personally ask Beindorff this question: “IF Mr. Pellegrini had asked you to drive the three of you off the bridge into the Mississippi River, would you have done it?”

Accountability. We, The People of the United States of America demand it. Dead people can't speak for themselves. 

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