Second man gets life term in cornfield death

September 22, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

Troy D. Shellington, the second man charged in last year's "cornfield murder," pleaded guilty in Westminster yesterday to murder in commission of a felony and was immediately sentenced to life in prison.

The prosecution reached an agreement with Shellington in which he pleaded guilty in the slaying last summer of Margaret E. Cullen, 74, of Homeland. Her body was found buried in a cornfield near Hampstead.

In exchange, State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman agreed to dismiss seven other charges against Shellington, of the 3600 block of Cottage Ave., including first-degree murder and kidnapping.

Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. accepted Shellington's plea and, at the request of defense lawyer M. Gordon Tayback, sentenced him on the spot to life imprisonment. Also at the defense's request, the judge said he would recommend incarceration for Shellington at Patuxent Institution.

"They [the defense] wanted a sentence less than life, but we were insisting on it, due to the nature of the crime," Mr. Hickman said later.

Shellington, of the 3600 block of Cottage Avenue, and Abras "Sandy" Q. Morrison, of the 6000 block of Lanette Road in Baltimore County, were convicted for the August 1991 slaying of Margaret E. Cullen, 74. She had employed Morrison as a nurse's aide for her ailing husband, a retired dentist.

Morrison forged a check he had stolen from Mrs. Cullen. But after she pressed charges against him, the two men forced her to call the bank to drop the charges Aug. 15, and took her from her home in the 5400 block of Springlake Way to a cornfield on Md. 30 near Hampstead.

There, they stabbed her four times in the stomach and left her to die. Morrison was convicted Aug. 25 on eight of nine charges -- he was acquitted of second-degree murder -- and faces life without parole when he is sentenced by Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold Oct. 22.

Mr. Hickman said he had been trying to reach a plea agreement with Shellington for several weeks, but as late as Friday, the defendant had not decided whether he would accept it.

During yesterday's hearing, Mr. Tayback advised Shellington and explained the stipulations of the agreement to him. Seated on the witness stand, the defendant bowed his head into his chest and placed his hand up to his mouth as if to stifle a yawn.

"It is believed by most of the people involved in the investigation of this case that Morrison was the ringleader and hopefully, he will be dealt with severely," Mr. Hickman told the judge.

"But the defendant was a willing participant, and despite the fact that he is young and he is a first offender, the state is recommending a life sentence. That is sufficient punishment for taking of . . . the life of an innocent person."

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