Gunman guilty of murder in ‘06 boro shooting spree

Gunman guilty of murder in ‘06 boro shooting spree
Red cars belonging to victims of Matthew Coletta (inset), who pleaded guilty to shooting at eight vehicles across Queens in 2006, killing a Long Island man, were lined up at the 109th Precinct shortly after the crimes. Photo by Anthony DelMundo/Inset courtesy Queens DA
By Connor Adams Sheets

The unemployed Woodhaven bricklayer who went on a wild shooting spree throughout several Queens neighborhoods in 2006, killing one man and shooting at 13 others, was convicted of murder and other charges in Queens Supreme Court Monday.

Matthew Coletta, 38, of 85-26 98th St., faces 25 years to life in prison for his alcohol- and cocaine-fueled crimes, which include 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, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office.

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

“The defendant carved a bloody swath across Queens County during a violent six-hour shooting rampage in which he drove around randomly firing at individuals standing on the sidewalk or traveling in vehicles,” Brown said. “In the aftermath of the bloody attacks, three individuals were seriously injured and a Massapequa Park man, who was returning home with his wife after dropping their daughter off at college, was murdered. The defendant’s actions have forever changed the lives of those with whom he crossed paths during his deadly shooting spree. The consequence of this behavior is that he must serve no less than life behind bars.”

In the end, Coletta fired off his gun in eight separate incidents over six hours, starting on the evening of Aug. 25 and lasting until police arrested him near Forest Park at about 1:45 a.m. Aug. 26. The shootings took place in Bayside, College Point, Queensboro Hill, Maspeth, Long Island City, Ozone Park, Forest Hills and Forest Park. He seemed to single out red cars for targets.

The gunfire began at about 7:15 p.m. Aug. 25, 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.

An observer at Goldfingers, a Rego Park strip club, said shortly after the spree that Coletta stopped by for about 20 minutes the evening of Aug. 25. He acted strangely toward the valet, asking him not to touch his car and giving him a $20 tip, said the observer, who asked not to be identified.

Coletta was convicted after a four-week jury trial on one count of second-degree murder, 13 counts of second-degree attempted murder, assault, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Justice Michael Aloise set Coletta’s sentencing for Dec. 16.

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

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