Death Penalty Sought For Parolee Accused In Killing

January 03, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for an Annapolis man charged with stabbing a Crownsville man to death while on parole for a previous murder conviction.

Prosecutors will seek to send Ronald Lamar Scoates, 30, to the gas chamber when he stands trial for first-degree murder next month in county Circuit Court, State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said yesterday. Weathersbee said prosecutors will seek a sentence of life with no chance of parole for Scoates' co-defendant, Michael David Swartz.

Swartz, 24, is the adoptive brother of Larry Swartz, who was convicted of killing his parents in Cape St. Claire in 1984. Michael Swartz, Scoates and Henry Lewis Stettler, 27, of Annapolis, have been charged with robbery and murder in connection with the July 9 slaying of 52-year-old Robert Austin Bell.

Weathersbee said Scoates' criminal record, which includes a conviction for murder in Florida, was a factor in his decision to seek the death penalty. Scoates had served less than seven years of a 35-year sentence when Florida officials paroled him last April.

Weathersbee said Bell had volunteered to give Scoates a place to live after Scoates had been paroled. "It's a lot like biting the hand that feeds you," Weathersbee said.

Police have said they believe the men went to Bell's home in the 100 block First Street in Crownsville either to borrow money or to steal a glass jar containing quarters. Police say they believe Swartz and Scoates entered the home while Stettler waited in a car.

Bell's body was discovered by a paper boy who came to collect payment. He had been stabbed several times, police said.

In order to obtain a sentence of death, prosecutors must show the defendant committed murder under aggravating circumstances and was a "principal in the first degree" -- for example, a trigger man, Weathersbee said. In the Scoates case, prosecutors will attempt to meet the aggravating circumstances requirement by establishing the slaying occurred during a robbery, the prosecutor said.

Scoates, of the first block Munroe Court, was being held at the county detention center in lieu of $250,000 bond. Swartz, of the 1000 block Chesapeake Harbor Road, Annapolis, was being held in lieu of $200,000 bond. His brother, Larry Swartz, is serving a 12-year sentence at the Patuxent Institution for the 1984 slaying of their adoptive parents.

Scoates is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 19, Weathersbee said. He said a motions hearing on the Swartz case is scheduled for Feb. 4, with the trial scheduled to start Feb. 7. Stettler is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 26.

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