Michigan man with juvenile life sentence gets reduced term

BAD AXE, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan man sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing a woman when he was a teenager more than 20 years ago has been resentenced to a shorter term.

Huron County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Prill reduced Matthew Bentley’s sentence Monday to 32 to 60 years, with credit for 18 years he’s already served.

Bentley, now 34, was resentenced because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles are unconstitutional. The decision applied retroactively as of last year.

Bentley was originally sentenced in 1998 for the Sept. 2, 1997, shooting death of 54-year-old Betty Bardell in Bad Axe. He was tried as an adult and found guilty of felony murder, first-degree home invasion and a felony firearms charge. He was 14 at the time of the killing.

April Osentoski, Bentley’s sister, said her brother will determine his future course in life now that leaving prison is a possibility.

“At this point it’s in his hands as to how he conducts himself, what he does and how he moves forward from here to be productive and to prove to everyone that he can actually be a functioning productive member of society,” she said.

County prosecutor Timothy Rutkowski maintained Bentley hasn’t changed his ways, citing times during incarceration where he was found possessing weapons.

“Children know you don’t kill,” he said. “Mrs. Bardell did not deserve to have what happened to her.”

Bentley apologized during his resentencing.

“When I shot Mrs. Bardell, I changed my whole life,” he said. “For 20 years, I’ve kept her name with me. She was a good woman and this is who I murdered.”