FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The young man convicted of clubbing his victim to death then dismembering him inside a Fort Wayne storage unit in April 2021 attended his sentencing hearing in prison orange and apologized to the family.
Mathew Cramer, who at times appeared to have difficulty understanding what his attorney, Robert Scremin, was telling him, waited for the proceedings to start with his head on the table. The verdict was already in – life without parole.
“I’m really sorry for 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 impact statement presented by two representatives of the family, Rob Evans and Don Cochran. Nguyen’s widow, Don, did not speak.
In the letter, Don detailed 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 extended to the spending a “lot of time” with the Bishop Dwenger band kids and lending his culinary skills to school fundraisers. He served as a bridge between the Buddhist community here and a representative to the local Vietnamese organizations who relied on him for advice. He served as an interpreter in the local court system and volunteered for the American Red Cross and in hospitals.
Nguyen operated a food truck serving 25 companies and was very active in parish and cathedral activities for 25 years. He leaves behind three brothers and five sisters and hundreds in the Vietnamese community.
He was the kind of guy who would let slip, telling his customers “it’s OK. Pay me next day or pay me on pay day,” Evans said. “He was a great father and loving husband.” His death ended nearly 25 years of marriage.
“We raise our families to stay together and united for life,” the letter read. “My hope is you will truly understand the consequences of your actions.”
Then there was a recitation of Cramer’s criminal history from the time he was young, growing up in Elkhart County. For an arson he allegedly committed, Cramer was reinstituted to a children’s home in a “locked and secure unit,” Tom Chaille, chief deputy prosecutor told Superior Court Judge David Zent. As a young man, he failed at “multiple attempts to rehabilitate (himself.)”
Cramer killed Nguyen outside his unit at U-Stor on Coliseum Boulevard.
Cramer admitted to killing Nguyen on April 23, 2021, after he said he’d had enough of Nguyen’s sexual advances. Cramer’s attorney, Robert Scremin, said Nguyen knew his prey – a young, homeless, jobless and directionless kid with a learning disability.
Starting two weeks before the killing, Cramer accepted rides and dinners from Pizza Hut and McDonalds’ from the food truck operator, but the favors came with a price. Cramer had capitulated to the request for sex at his storage unit earlier in April, but on April 23, desperately in need of a ride, he played along and then snapped, Scremin said.
Back at the storage unit, Cramer said Nguyen took off his shirt as the two sat in the back seat of Nguyen’s van, and then casually mentioned that he bring his niece and nephew on the next sexual encounter.
Cramer put him into a choke hold and “exploded on him.” He just didn’t include 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 voluntary manslaughter, but when the judge denied the request “it left the jury to only chose between guilty and 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 co-defendant’s influence when determining life without parole,” Scremin said. A co-defendant witnessed and filmed the dismemberment, a young man Cramer called “my big homie.”