The day after his girlfriend testified against him, Rowland K. Hudson of Baltimore called an end to his jury trial by pleading guilty to the robbery and murder last fall of Valerie Brown, a college textbook saleswoman from Philadelphia.
Hudson, 34, of the 4900 block of Queensbury Ave., then was sentenced by Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge John G. Turnbull yesterday to life in prison for the first-degree felony murder conviction, plus 20 years for a related handgun conviction.
And the girlfriend, Donna Denson, who tried to distance herself from the crime by saying she hadn't known Hudson was about to commit the robbery, was convicted of felony murder, robbery and related charges by a jury of 11 women and one man.
Under felony murder, a person involved in a crime that results in death is just as guilty as the person who did the killing.
Turnbull postponed sentencing for Denson, 26, until after authorities can complete a presentence background investigation. No date was set for the sentencing hearing.
Brown, 30, who was in Baltimore last fall visiting area colleges as part of her job, was gunned down outside her motel room at the Quality Inn Motel near Westview Mall a little after 10 p.m.
She had been robbed of her purse, containing cash and credit cards, then shot once in the chest. The .32-caliber bullet pierced her heart and severed her spine, evidence at trial showed.
In his opening statement to the jury, Hudson's attorney, Phillip Sutley had said, "Our position is that Mr. Hudson had absolutely nothing to do with the murder."
But yesterday morning, just hours after Denson testified that Hudson was the man who robbed and killed Brown, Hudson changed his not-guilty plea to guilty and was immediately sentenced.
Thomas Saunders, the Baltimore County public defender who represented Denson, told the jury in his closing arguments that Denson hadn't known Hudson was about to rob Valerie Brown and later, after she found out, lied to police and even Saunders because she was afraid.
"Miss Denson for the first time in four years did something right," Saunders continued, referring to Denson's testimony against Hudson. "She took the stand to tell the truth.
"And she also brought that man," said Saunders, pointing to Hudson's empty chair, "to justice."
But Steve Bailey, the prosecutor in the case, punched holes in Denson's testimony, labeling it a "cover story" told to protect herself from responsibility.
"She's trying to convince you that she knew nothing of what happened," Bailey said.
Denson testified that she had been in a car with Hudson when he pulled into the parking lot of the Quality Inn, that Hudson had left the car for a few moments, returned, then asked her to drive.
Later, she said, Hudson made the comment, "I had to bust her," but in court Wednesday, Denson said she had disregarded the comment. "I didn't pay it no mind," she said.
Bailey honed in on that remark in his closing arguments. "When Rowland makes that remark, does she say, 'What? Who? What are you talking about, Rowland?' "
"No. Why doesn't she say anything like that?" Bailey asked. "Because she knew exactly who he was referring to and what was going on. She was doing her part. She was driving away" in the getaway car.