Man convicted in murder-for-hire plot gets 8 years

July 07, 1992|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

A Glen Burnie man with a history of mental illness was sentenced yesterday to eight years in prison for hiring an undercover state trooper posing as a hit man to kill the man who was dating his ex-girlfriend.

Joseph Ralph Gadow, 36, was charged with hiring the trooper to kill Thomas Michaels of Crownsville, who was seeing a woman Gadow had lived with for six years.

According to court records, Gadow met with the undercover trooper three times before his arrest on Dec. 18 and made two down payments, one for $25 and a second for $75, toward the $500 contract on Mr. Michaels' life. In addition, Gadow agreed to turn over the title to his motorcycle once the job was done and the would-be assassin could have anything he found on the body.

Gadow discussed several methods with the trooper for killing Mr. Michaels, all of which would make the death appear accidental. The more pedestrian plan involved staging a mugging, but Gadow also suggested putting mercury under a car seat in the hope that Mr. Michaels would somehow inhale the fumes and be poisoned.

Gary Christopher, who defended Gadow, said his client suffered from a "severe emotional dysfunction" and that a pre-sentencing evaluation indicated he suffered from mild delusional thinking, moderate depression and that his childhood dependency needs had not been met.

After Gadow's girlfriend broke up with him and began seeing Mr. Michaels, Gadow began obsessively investigating Mr. Michaels, falsely believing him to be a drug dealer, Mr. Christopher said. It was his inability to deal with rejection that fed his obsession and led to the murder plot, he said.

"I submit that it would be difficult for any of us to deal with, but it was impossible for him to deal with. It became an obsession," Mr. Christopher said.

Gadow's behavior in this case tended to support the diagnosis and indicated that an appropriate sentence should include psychological counseling, Mr. Christopher said.

"This deal with the mercury vapors coming up into the brain, that doesn't happen. Isn't that delusional?" he said after the sentencing.

In addition, Mr. Christopher said "there definitely was a little bit of cheerleading on the trooper's part," to the extent that Gadow may have been pressured to close the deal.

But Prosecutor Eugene M. Whissel II said the murder plot was well-calculated.

"I think it was well-thought-out and well-planned by him," Mr. Whissel said. "He just happened to find the wrong person on the other end of the contract."

Mr. Whissel also pointed to Gadow's ex-girlfriend as another victim in the case, saying that Gadow denied her the freedom to have a relationship with whomever she wanted. "I also think it is the ultimate form of sexual harassment," he said.

Addressing the court, Gadow said he was "devastated" by the end of his relationship and that "I had no intention to bring harm or violence to Mr. Michaels. I just got out of hand and I lost control."

In sentencing Gadow, Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth adhered to the plea agreement that Gadow would receive the low end of the range recommended by sentencing guidelines, which was eight years. Judge Rushworth sentenced Gadow to 16 years in prison, but suspended eight years. After his release from prison, Gadow will be on probation for four years.

"My hands are tied to that extent," Judge Rushworth said. "And I think that is just as well, because I would be thinking of a much longer sentence."

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