Woodhaven killer sentenced to 384 years for 2006 shooting spree

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The Woodhaven man who went on a wild, drug-fueled shooting spree throughout several Queens neighborhoods in August 2006, killing one man and shooting at 13 others, was sentenced Thursday to 384 years to life in prison.

Matthew Coletta, 38, of 85-26 98th St., targeted red vehicles and people wearing red shirts on the street during a six-hour rampage that included the slaying of Todd Upton, 51, of Massapequa Park, L.I., who was driving a red minivan along the Cross Island Parkway near Bell Boulevard when Coletta fired a 9 mm pistol several times into the van, hitting Upton in the neck and killing him, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office.

Todd Upton’s passengers, wife Mary and daughter Erin, were uninjured, but he died hours later at New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens.

In the end, Coletta fired off his gun in eight separate incidents over six hours, starting about 7:15 p.m. Aug. 25 and lasting until police arrested him near Forest Park at about 1:45 a.m. Aug. 26, the DA said. The shootings took place in Bayside, College Point, Queensboro Hill, Maspeth, Long Island City, Ozone Park, Forest Hills and Forest Park, according to the DA.

“While today’s sentence serves as a measure of justice for the defendant’s victims and their families, it cannot, regrettably, undo the immense pain and suffering that he caused during his violent six-hour rampage, in which he drove around Queens County randomly firing at individuals standing on the sidewalk or traveling in vehicles,” Brown said in a statement. “His actions have forever changed the lives of those with whom he crossed paths during his deadly shooting spree. As a result, he has forfeited his right to live in a free society.”

Mary Upton spoke out against Coletta, the man who killed her husband, during his sentencing in Queens Supreme Court Thursday, according to the New York Post.

“You should spend a year [in prison] for every tear we’ve shed,” Upton told Coletta, who reacted to the news with callousness and a lack of remorse, the Post reported.

“My husband never got to see his daughters graduate college or his son graduate high school, he will never get to walk his girls down the aisle,” she said as she embraced her daughter Erin, according to the Post.

Coletta, an unemployed bricklayer who was under the influence of cocaine and alcohol at the time of his shooting spree, was convicted Nov. 22 of one count of second-degree murder for Upton’s slaying, 13 counts of second-degree attempted murder, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance, according to the DA.

The gunfire began at about 7:15 p.m. on Aug. 25, 2006, when Coletta shot Andrew Leonid, a 46-year-old Maspeth resident who was walking his dog and was struck in the right knee, Brown said.

The final shooting, which took place in Forest Hills at Woodhaven Boulevard and Metropolitan Avenue, targeted off-duty NYPD Lt. Arnaldo Alvarado of the 76th Precinct in Brooklyn. Alvarado was not struck by a bullet, according to Brown.

Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise also expressed anger over the cavalier attitude Coletta displayed in court toward the families he shattered, and the crimes he had committed, the Post reported.

“You have the audacity to stand here and still never take responsibility for your actions,” Aloise said, according to the Post. “I allowed you to bring rosary beads into the courtroom. Each day I was hoping that the strength of character from these rosary beads would help you to be a man and see you through this.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 6:18 pm, October 10, 2011
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