Hit man in '83 Warren House killings is again handed 2 death sentences BALTIMORE COUNTY

November 06, 1992|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

A Baltimore County jury imposed two death sentences yesterday on Vernon Lee "Shorty" Evans Jr., 43, the contract killer who gunned down a federal witness and a bystander at the Warren House Motor Hotel in April 1983.

The death-penalty hearing, which began last week, ended the same way a similar hearing ended in 1984-- with a jury sentencing Evans to two death sentences. Yesterday's panel of eight men and four women deliberated three hours before returning its verdict.

Judge Christian Kahl said he would sign a death warrant as well as a stay of execution, pending an automatic appeal to Maryland's highest court.

"I feel for his family, I really do," said Cheryl Piechowicz, whose sister, Susan Kennedy, and husband, David Scott Piechowicz, were slain by Evans. "But I think this sends the proper message."

Mrs. Piechowicz and her husband both worked at the Pikesville motel and were Vernon Evans' targets, but the sister worked for Mrs. Piechowicz the day of the murders and was slain by mistake. The Piechowiczes had been scheduled to testify against Anthony Grandison, a local drug lord, who paid $9,000 to Evans to execute the witnesses.

"It clearly was a just verdict," said John Cox, one of two prosecutors in the case.

Sally Chester, an assistant public defender, said in her closing argument that there was no excuse for what her client had done, but that the jury could find mitigating circumstances and spare him the death penalty.

She pointed to a nephew of Evans' who testified that his uncle, through letters, had convinced him to stay away from drug use and violence. Mrs. Chester said that her client has been a positive influence on other inmates during his nine years in prison. He has been "a cool head in a hot house," she said. It was a serious drug addiction, Mrs. Chester argued, that led Evans into the clutches of Grandison, whom she described as a "major drug lord."

Mr. Cox and Jason League, another prosecutor, argued that Grandison and Evans were close friends and that Grandison turned to Evans because he wanted someone "he knew would get the job done."

That argument brought an objection from William Kanwisher, another attorney for Evans, who said the comments gave the clear indication that Evans had performed other contract killings for Grandison -- which he did not.

But Judge Kahl overruled Mr. Kanwisher's objection and refused to grant a mistrial.

Evans said nothing upon hearing the verdict. But his sister began sobbing and left the courtroom.

Evans' original death sentence was overturned last year, forcing the second hearing.

Grandison was convicted of engineering the murder plot and is currently on Maryland's death row.

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