While his common-law wife of 12 years went to work as a bookkeeper, Gary Stephens cooked, cleaned and took care of the kids. He was a "Mr. Mom."
But Jody Lynn Rosenborough was having an affair. She was going to leave him. The 35-year-old woman came home on a Friday night last September with boxes and announced her intention to move out of their Glen Burnie home, but Stephens reached into a bedroom dresser drawer, pulled out a knife and stabbed her at least nine times.
As she lay dying in the couple's bed, he got her a drink of waterand fluffed her pillows. Telling his children, "Mommy's gone away," Stephens stayed with his dead wife throughout the weekend, periodically crawling into bed to be close to her.
"I loved my wife," Stephens said yesterday in county Circuit Court after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. "I'm sorry for hurting her family and my family."
His lawyer and a niece described Stephens, 41, as a model family man who, after suffering a job-related injury, stayed home with the children rather than go back to work and incur day care costs.
"Everyone said Gary was a great father. He played the Mr. Mom role," saidhis niece, 23-year-old Pamela Meeker. "The kids would stick to Gary like glue."
"He kept a nice house," said Robert H. Waldman, an assistant public defender.
But the Rosenborough family says Stephens was a leech who refused to get a job to help his wife pay the bills.
"The only reason he was Mr. Mom is he didn't work," said Jim Rosenborough, brother of the slain woman.
Tammy Rosenborough, the woman's mother, said, "He never put a cent toward the kids. Another brother, Terry Rosenborough, said Stephens physically abused the children and his wife, adding: "We certainly didn't think he was a wonderful father. He was very good at getting forgiven."
Each of the victim's three brothers has custody of one of the couple's three children, whoranged in age from 18 months to 6 years when their mother was killed.
One member of the Rosenborough family will be allowed to speak at Stephens' sentencing, scheduled for June 1. Under a plea bargain, prosecutors will drop a first-degree murder charge and will call for Stephens to be sentenced within guidelines that show he should receive15 to 25 years in prison.
During yesterday's hearing, Warren W. Davis III, an assistant state's attorney, said the state would have called 42 witnesses had the case gone to trial.
Davis said police received a 911 call on Monday, Sept. 30, from Stephens, who said his wife was suffering stomach and chest pains and needed an ambulance. Paramedics arriving at the couple's home in the 1000 block of Fairway Ave. found the three children unattended and the woman dead in bed. They also found bloody towels and a long note, apparently written by Stephens, with the names and addresses of Rosenborough family members who could take care of the children.
Later that day, Stephens turnedhimself in to police, telling one officer, "If you are any kind of man you'll shoot me now. You can tell them I tried to escape," according to Davis.
During an interview with detectives, Stephens said hewas not a drinker -- until he learned of his wife's affair. "He saidhe had had nothing but rejection and beer the past week," Davis said.
Stephens admitted stabbing his wife but seemed reluctant to acknowledge she was dead, the prosecutor added.
Davis said Stephens was able to hide the body from his visiting daughter from a previous marriage. Also, a cookie-selling Girl Scout was prepared to testify that Stephens looked disheveled when he answered the door that weekend.
The prosecutor said Stephens told the detectives: "Now nobody's got no one."