One family described 26-year-old Matthew D. Pufahl as the glue that held them together. The other family described him as a person who nearly tore them apart.
Such were the variations during Thursday's sentencing for Pufahl, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in early May in the death of Wade Reader. Allen Superior Court Judge John F. Surbeck accepted the plea agreement Thursday, sentencing Pufahl to 30 years in prison – 10 suspended, 20 to be executed – with four years of probation. Pufahl was given credit for 449 days already served.
Pufahl, of New Haven, shot Reader, 23, on March 11, 2010, as the culmination of an ongoing feud that started and grew through encounters at a bar. On the night Pufahl shot Reader, security had removed them from the property and the two agreed to meet at Canterbury Green Apartments to finish their fight, according to a probable-cause affidavit.
A witness told police that as the group arrived and Reader walked to Pufahl and his companions, he asked, “Did you want to shoot me?” One unidentified man gestured “no,” and Reader then approached Pufahl, who pulled a gun and fired twice, striking Reader in the chest, the affidavit said. Pufahl left, and Reader died soon after at a local hospital.
While Taylor Pufahl described how his brother unified their family, an emotional Kim Reader, Wade Reader's mother, detailed her son's life so Matthew Pufahl could understand what his actions had cost her family.
“I can't sleep, haven't been able to sleep for the last 15 months,” Kim Reader said.
She described her son as stubborn and a dreamer, and said the bounty hunter came home for the holidays “because he liked to eat.”
Kim Reader described the night her son was shot, of getting a call around 3:30 a.m., of going to the hospital with her husband and other family, where, for a few moments, she thought her son would survive before being told he did not due to a bullet “severing his liver in half.”
“That was just the beginning of the hell you put us through,” Kim Reader said, adding later, “I had to wait three days before I could even see him.”
She described the pain of the family's loss, saying she thought her husband was going to have a heart attack during the ordeal and that, “I would never hear (Wade) laugh again.” Kim Reader finished addressing Pufahl by saying, “Matthew, what you took from us was priceless.”
She then asked Surbeck to not accept the plea agreement if it meant Pufahl would not spend close to his full sentence in prison. That request gave Surbeck pause; after saying, “I do feel somewhat compelled” to respond, Surbeck then took time to explain to the nearly full court exactly how sentencing worked, with regard to parameters such as Indiana's day-for-a-day system, which means good behavior can result in time served being cut in half, as well as other programs that can lessen time served.
Surbeck said “95 percent of the people who go to the penitentiary will be released, and if you don't do something for them, they can come out the same or worse.”
He said this means society, to protect itself from reoffenses, had to provide positive goals for prisoners.