MANCHESTER, NH — A Goffstown man was sentenced to 34 years to life in prison in the 2017 shooting death of Ian Jewell, 18, a Manchester Memorial High School senior, who was shot in the chest in Goffstown during what police call a drug deal gone bad.
Jaiden Ciruzzi, now 20, but who was 16 at the time of the shooting, will have the opportunity to reduce his sentence by five years if he is of good behavior, and earns both an associate’s and bachelor’s degree.
Judge N. William Delker, in sentencing Ciruzzi in Hillsborough County Superior Court Northern District on Thursday, said Ciruzzi will be 45 when he is released from prison (if he earns the degrees) and have half his life before him. If he doesn’t, he will be 50.
The sentencing came after Ciruzzi apologized to Jewell’s family and friends
“As much as I wish I could go back and change the situation I can’t,” Ciruzzi said facing Jewell’s family. He offered his “deepest apologies” to them and said it was through his negligence and recklessness that they lost a son.
“I must take responsibility,” he said. “If it wasn’t for me, he would still be alive.”
In March, Ciruzzi pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Originally, he was charged with first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence.
The plea was a “capped plea,” under which the judge could not sentence him to more than 37 years in prison. The defense had asked the judge to sentence him to 25 years.
More than 75 people, representing both Jewell’s and Ciruzzi’s family and friends, attended Thursday’s hearing which lasted more than three hours.
The sentencing came after highly emotional statements from Jewell’s parents, sister, aunt and girlfriend, Jenna Lewis, who was in the car at the time Jewell was shot in the chest. Ciruzzi’s mother also spoke, asking for mercy for her son.
Lewis said that not only did Ciruzzi take Ian’s life from “this world, you damaged the lives of everyone around him.”
She said he “scarred the entire Manchester community and those who loved him dearly.”
Lewis described Jewell as a smart young man, with goals, dreams and potential, and as one of the “kindest and most generous person” she ever met.
“My entire life was flipped upside down when you took Ian away from me,” Lewis said. “I lost my first love.”
She said she never experienced anything so traumatizing.
To this day, Lewis said she battles nightmares and flashbacks. She said for a long time she wished Ciruzzi had taken her life so she wouldn’t have to deal with the pain of Ian’s loss.
Jewell’s mother, Cynthia Jewell, described Nov. 19, 2017, as the darkest day of her life.
More than four years after his death, Jewell says she wakes up every day and speaks to him.
“We spend a lot of time in his room, which hasn’t changed much since he left us,” she said.
She said they did not for a moment condone what her son was doing.
“I believe that he was in the wrong place doing something he shouldn’t have that night but had circumstances been different he would have been held accountable for what he did,” she said. “Bob (her husband and Ian’s father) and I would have supported him and also supported any punishment that is handed down to him.”
She said they would have healed him and would “still get to hold him. Your actions that nigh prohibited that outcome. Ian would not get a chance to atone for the mistake that he made. As his parents, sister, his family, his friends, we would have done anything to help him through what he had gotten himself involved in. The finale of his death will not allow us to do that.
So, she said, they start their days talking to him and end their days by lighting an old-fashioned candle Ian had bought and putting it in his bedroom window. In the morning they unplug it.
A friend of Ian’s, who she said lives across the street, put a candle in his window so the lights can shine together.
She said her son is in heaven and she believes she will see him again. “I am not worried about Ian. I know he is safe,” she said. “I worry about all of us and how we have to continue on here without Ian.”
She said it didn’t have to be that way.
“My feelings are my son went to a situation with one agenda of what would take place. No hidden agenda. No sneakiness. No robbery. No, ‘Let’s get the better of somebody,’” she said.
Ian wasn’t street smart, she said, and got himself into a bad situation and put himself in harm’s way.
On the other hand, she said, Ciruzzi knew exactly what he was doing.
“He had experience with guns. He hunted and he was allowed to keep guns in his home,” she said. “He brought a loaded gun he knew how to use. My son had a matter of seconds to decide what to do. He wanted to protect someone he cared about and himself and that’s how it played out.”
Police said Ciruzzi told friends that day he planned to rob Jewell of drugs, but instead he ended up shooting him in the chest in a struggle over a loaded semi-automatic Ruger LC9 handgun Circuzzi had brought with him. Earlier that same day, prosecutors said he attempted to rob someone else.
He joined a Bible study at SYDC which he continued when he was transferred to the Valley Street jail on his 18th birthday.