Maintaining his innocence and vowing to appeal, convicted murderer Abras Morrison stood motionless yesterday as Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold sentenced him to life in prison without parole.
Morrison, convicted in August of killing 74-year-old Margaret Cullen in a Hampstead cornfield last year, told the judge before the sentence that he was saddened by the woman's death but wasn't guilty.
"My remorse for her is not because I did the crime," said the 21-year-old Baltimore County man. "I'm sorry because it's a loss on both ends. A loss is a loss, whether it comes through natural causes or any other means."
Prosecutors said during Morrison's week-long trial that Mrs. Cullen's murder was brutal.
Morrison told police after his arrest that he and Troy D. Shellington -- who is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree murder last month -- never wanted to kill the woman.
But after they decided to bring her to Carroll County so that she might have "wandered off and got lost somewhere, Mrs. Cullen struggled with them.
Morrison told police and said at his trial that it was Mrs. Cullen who "ran into" the knife that ultimately killed her.
Mrs. Cullen's beaten, stabbed and badly decomposed body was found in a field off Route 30 on Aug. 25, 1991 by Baltimore homicide detectives.
Morrison, who was hired by Mrs. Cullen as a nurse's aide last summer, was convicted Aug. 26 of first-degree murder, felony murder in a kidnapping, felony murder in a robbery, kidnapping, robbery, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit robbery.
"I have never been a type of person who has accepted defeat wrongfully," Morrison said yesterday, as he promised to pursue exoneration.
"Mr. Morrison, you impress the court as a very bright and articulate young man who had prospects for a very good life," Judge Arnold said before handing down the sentence. "Your future was bright indeed until this happened."
Two of the defendant's sisters testified yesterday as character witnesses, calling him a "warm" and thoughtful man who served as his family's best male role model -- until Mrs. Cullen's death.
Carolyn Rollman, Mrs. Cullen's sister-in-law, sat two rows in front of Morrison's family. As they and the defendant took turns addressing the judge, she sat quietly. An occasional tear welled in her eyes.
In addition to the life-without-parole sentence, Judge Arnold imposed a life sentence on the conspiracy to commit murder conviction, a 20-year sentence for the kidnapping conviction and a five-year sentence for the robbery conviction. All of the sentences will be served concurrently.