A Gambrills man whose robbery of a Crofton supermarket led store employees to chase him with sticks -- which in turn led the robber to hijack a car and kidnap a pregnant woman and her 2-year-old child -- was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison with no chance for paroleunder the state's "three-time loser" law.
In sentencing 31-year-old Thornell Dewitt Marshall, county Circuit Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth rejected a defense attorney's argument that Marshall should be given a lighter sentence because he is a good candidate for rehabilitation of the drug problem that led him to commit the crimes.
Assistant Public Defender Kendel Sibiski said, "He is considered to be a nice person when he is not under the influence or in search of drugs.
"Not to excuse this, but your honor, we've seen a lot worse in this court that aren't facing 25 without parole," Sibiski added. "This case really bothers me, judge."
Rushworth replied: "It bothers me too. If this isn't a case that calls for maximum punishment, I don't know what is. He's got a crack problem, and I don't see why the citizens of this state should be put in jeopardy while he resolvesit."
To prove Marshall should be sentenced under a state law requiring 25 years with no parole for anyone convicted of a third violentcrime, Assistant State's Attorney Frederick M. Paone showed Marshallhad been convicted of a 1978 purse-snatching in Annapolis and a 1984robbery in North Carolina.
Referring to Marshall's Oct. 9, 1990, robbery of the Giant supermarket on Route 3 and the chase that followed, Paone said, "Mr. Marshall hit the jackpot with this one. It was ahorrendous crime."
On March 11, a jury convicted Marshall, of the900 block of Tall Ridge Way, of robbery, theft and kidnapping. Evidence showed Marshall entered the store at about 8 p.m., pushed aside acashier, grabbed money from the register and fled.
But the get-away proved to be eventful, as store employees armed with sticks and baseball bats chased Marshall across Route 3 and into the highway median strip. Beth Ann Smith, 25, of Glen Burnie, was sitting in her car at the intersection of routes 3 and 424 when the robber got into her car.
Store employees trying to get to Marshall broke out the rear window of Smith's car. Marshall threatened the woman and forced her todrive off, but when they hit a dead-end street, Smith and her daughter escaped. The chase continued, with a police helicopter, search light and other area residents in pursuit of the car, and Marshall eventually was arrested at a gas station near the Prince George's County line.
In a May 8 letter to Rushworth, Smith said she suffers nightmares and is afraid to be alone or drive at night. She says her daughter remains confused by the incident and is afraid of anyone in a uniform resembling a police officer's.
"We both went to see a counselor hoping it would help. It did a bit, but the feeling you get when someone else has control of your life and your baby never goes away," the woman wrote.
In court yesterday, Marshall apologized to the woman and her child and to the Giant employees. "It is now that I truly realize the seriousness of the crime I committed," he said.
Marshall was also sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison for robbery and18 months for theft, both maximum sentences and both to be served concurrent to the 25-year sentence.
Paone said Marshall was armed with a pipe in the 1984 robbery in North Carolina. The prosecutor said Marshall is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in two other robberies in Anne Arundel county, but Paone said he will not seek any more prison time for Marshall.
Marshall pleaded guilty to robbing aSuperfresh store on Annapolis Road in Odenton of $337 Oct. 4 and robbing a 7-Eleven store in Odenton Oct. 3.