Man sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder, dismemberment

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) – The young man convicted of beating his victim to death and then dismembering him in a Fort Wayne storage unit in April 2021 attended his sentencing hearing at Orange Prison and issued an apology in the family.

Mathew Cramer, who seemed at times to have difficulty understanding what his attorney Robert Scremin was telling him, waited with his head on the table for the trial to begin. The verdict was already in – life imprisonment without parole.

“I’m really sorry about what happened,” Cramer, 22, told the family, looking at them. “I wish I could take it back. I apologize.”

The victim, Shane Nguyen, 55, was remembered in a victim statement presented by two family representatives, Rob Evans and Don Cochran. Nguyen’s widow Don did not speak.

Matthew Cramer

In the letter, Don described the loss of her husband, who was a friend, father of the couple’s two sons, and the one who brought “joy, comfort and happiness” to the home. His active role in the Catholic community has included spending “a lot of time” with the children of the Bishop Dwenger Band and volunteering his culinary skills for school fundraisers. He served as a bridge between the Buddhist community here and a representative from local Vietnamese organizations who relied on his advice. He served as an interpreter in the local court system and volunteered for the American Red Cross and in hospitals.

Nguyen ran a food truck that supplied 25 businesses and was very active in parish and cathedral activities for 25 years. He leaves three brothers and five sisters and hundreds in the Vietnamese community.

He was the kind of guy who would slip and tell his customers, “It’s okay. Pay me next day or pay me on payday,” Evans said. “He was a great father and a loving husband.” His death ended nearly 25 years of marriage.

“We raise our families to stay together and united for life,” the letter reads. “I hope you will truly understand the consequences of your actions.”

Then there was a recitation of Cramer’s criminal history from his youth growing up in Elkhart County. For an alleged arson he committed, Cramer was reinstated in a children’s home in a “locked and secure unit,” Tom Chaille, assistant attorney general, told Superior Court Judge David Zent. As a young man, he failed due to “multiple attempts at rehabilitation”.

Cramer killed Nguyen in front of his unit at the U-Stor on Coliseum Boulevard.

Cramer admitted to killing Nguyen on April 23, 2021 after saying he was fed up with Nguyen’s sexual advances. Cramer’s attorney Robert Scremin said Nguyen knew his prey – a young, homeless, unemployed and disoriented boy with a learning disability.

Starting two weeks before the murder, Cramer was accepting rides and dinners from Pizza Hut and McDonalds from the food truck operator, but the favors came with a price. Cramer had capitulated to requests for sex in his storage unit in early April, but on April 23, when he desperately needed a ride, he played along and then snapped, Scremin said.

Back at the storage unit, Cramer said Nguyen removed his shirt when the two sat in the back seat of Nguyen’s van, then casually mentioned that he would be bringing his niece and nephew with him to the next sexual encounter.

Cramer put him in a chokehold and “exploded on him”. He just didn’t record everything during his police interview with homicide detective Donald Lewis because he was embarrassed, Scremin said.

Cramer told Zent he intended to appeal his case. Scremin had wanted the charge changed to first degree murder, but when the judge denied the motion, “it left the jury to choose only guilty or not guilty of murder,” he said.

“We were disappointed that the jury did not give more weight to Mr. Cramer’s learning disability, his microdeletion syndrome and the influence of the co-defendant in deciding whether to live without parole,” Scremin said. A co-defendant witnessed and filmed the dismemberment, a young man whom Cramer called “my big homie.” Man sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder, dismemberment

Dais Johnston

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