People who testified in the case of Benjamin Prue agreed that he is not the typical home invader, not just because he was naked during a July, 2012 break-in in Milford, but because he had been a stand-out athlete, exceptional student — a young man with great opportunities and even good character — until drugs got in the way.
During court proceedings that wrapped up last month, Dr. Vladimir Coric, a forensic psychiatrist from Yale School of Medicine, was called upon to talk about Prue, and he told the story of a young man who grew up in Trumbull, an affluent community, but who was plagued by depression since a young age.
“…he’s had a long-standing history of depression, since approximately age 8, which is unusual to have depressive symptoms at such a young age,” Coric testified. There was also one episode of sexual victimization around the same time, he added though he did not elaborate.
To cope with his stress, Prue started using alcohol at age 13, and then that escalated to marijuana, and after marijuana, cocaine, opiates, heroin and then hallucinagenic drugs.
“He’s used a number of substances over the years,” Coric said.
He had a weakness, but he also had strengths, the doctor said, pointing out that Prue was a good student and an accomplished swimmer at Trumbull High School. The same is true of his time at Virginia Tech — not an easy school to get into, Coric pointed out — and at Southern Connecticut State University. He was an accomplished swimmer and student at both colleges.
His coach at Virginia Tech told Coric that Prue was “highly talented, received a varsity letter, and if it wasn’t for his substance use, would have likely excelled.”
This indicates “tremendous potential,” Coric added.
“But it was interfered with by the primary chemical dependency that he developed over the years, and he wasn’t able tofunction well,” Coric said. “And, obviously, at the end, his school sufferered, his work relationships, personal relationships, family relations, everything was impacted in his life by this severe chemical dependency problems.”
Prue was actually seeking counseling in North Carolina, where he lived before breaking into the home of Gerald Mirto in an affluenct beach-front community on the night of July 21.
He had come to Connecticut for a wedding, and that’s when the trouble began.
“What happened was his phone starts ringing off the hook, and it’s the old contacts, and he immediately now goes and hooks up with a guy that used to be his dealer,” said Atty. Richard Meehan Sr., who represented Prue.
“He goes over to the [Gathering of the] Vibes, he meets up with a former friend of his from Trubmull, another guy who is an abuser, he takes LSD, crack, cocaine, whatever he could take to put into his system, and then this unfortuante tragedy occurs.”
It was about 10 p.m. when Mirto found Prue naked inside his house and did his best to get the young man to leave. When he would not leave and became combative, Mirto shot him. When police arrived shortly after, they found Prue standing in the waters of Long Island Sound, behind Mirto’s house.
Prue was lucky to survive the shot, according to Dr. Coric.
“I think it’s only due to the heroic efforts of the first responders and physicians that he’s alive and here today,” Coric said. “That’s how severe his injuries were. So, he sustained a gunshot wound to the right thorax and abdomen that affected his lungs. It blasted his diaphragm, and also caused profuse bleeding in his liver. They had to pack his liver. It wouldn’t stop bleeding. They had to, actually, infarct, or embolize, part of the liver because it woudn’t stop bleeding, multiple trips back to the O.R., for what we call exploratory laparotomies to try to find bleeding and stop it. He spent a prolonged period in the ICU. and, again, it’s quite surprising that he survived the injuries.”
Police formally arrested Prue while he was in the hospital, and he had been incarcerated since he was released from the hospital.
When Prue addressed the court this summer, as his case came to a close and he waited to hear what his sentence would be, he apologized for his actions that summer night.
He apologized to Mirto and admitted he had no memory of the night.
“You know, my remorse for even having, you know, entered your home, been on your property, just, unfortunately, initiating a violent conflict with you, I can’t even describe it,” Prue said. “You know, the things you said I said to you, and things you said I did, I just can’t even imagine myself doing things like that.
“And the fact that I did, I can’t reconcile with you,” he continued. “All I really have to offer, at this point in time, is my apology, the deepest apology I can give. But that’s all it is, because that’s all I have to give.”
His attorney asked the judge to consider suspending the balance of his sentence for time served and letting him enter an intense two-year drug rehabilitation program.
“And if he stumbles at all, he’s brought back in with the understanding that Your Honor would then sentence him for a violation of probation and he would face the full extent of the sentence,” Meehan proposed.
“I mean, this kid was a two-time high school All American, who was taking AP courses, who graduated with a tremendous weighted average,” Meehan said.
He pointed out that since Prue has been in jail, he’s stayed away from drugs despite the fact that drugs are prevalent in jail, and he’s helped tutor other inmates working toward their GEDs. He referred to Coric’s testimony that Prue likely would not have done anything like he did that night if not for the drugs.
The judge weighed all that, and said it would be fair to say that Prue “is not the typical young man, who might be involved in a home invasion…”
But he did not grant the sentence that Prue and his attorney asked for, instead imposing a sentence of 10 years, suspended after three.
He told Prue that he hopes he can turn his life around — that there is still time since he is only 26 years old. But he said Prue needed to be punished for robbing a then-67-year-old man of his feelings of safety and security.
During proceedings, Mirto told the judge that he no longer feels safe in his home — a home he worked a life time to acquire.
The judge took that into account, too.
“I think you’ve robbed him of some of that contentment, Mr. Prue, and I think you’ve robbed him of it permanently, unfortunately.
“Now that doesn’t mean that I think, or probably Mr. Mirto thinks, that you’re the worst human being onthe face of the earth. You were the worst human being on the face of the earth that evening for him, but you’re not in life.”