Columbia teen sentenced to life in teacher's murder HOWARD COUNTY Victim was raped and strangled

March 31, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A 17-year-old Columbia youth was sentenced to life in prison without parole in Howard Circuit Court yesterday for the strangulation and rape of his home teacher.

Judge Raymond Kane Jr. gave Alton Romero Young the maximum sentence for a juvenile, calling the crimes so "egregious" that they out-weigh the defendant's age and clean criminal record.

Relatives of the victim sobbed and hugged each other after Judge Kane issued the sentence, while Young showed little emotion. His mother, however, collapsed outside the courtroom.

Young was convicted in January of first-degree murder and first-degree rape of Shirley Mullinix of Dayton following an argument over a lesson at his King's Contrivance home on March 25, 1992. He then dumped the body behind a nearby convenience store.

"I'm angry that my wife was murdered," Wayne Mullinix, the victim's husband, said in a written statement submitted to Judge Kane. "I'm angry that I'm still waiting for her car to pull in the driveway."

Mr. Mullinix said it is difficult to describe the loss he feels over the death of his wife.

"How do you describe the death of your soul?" he wrote. "How do you depict every day that starts and ends with 'why'?" How do you rebuild a life when all substance has disintegrated? When, if ever, will joy return?"

Judge Kane issued the sentence after Young pleaded for a second chance and Mrs. Mullinix's daughter urged him to give the defendant the maximum sentence.

Deborah Harris, who spoke for the Mullinix family, asked for a stiff sentence so Young can never again cause the pain that members of the family have experienced.

"We would all like to believe that our mother didn't suffer, but did you ever see a person choking?" she asked the judge. "Shirley never expected to be murdered by doing the thing she loved most -- teaching."

Since the slaying, Mrs. Mullinix's relatives have sought therapy and joined support groups to help overcome their grief, Ms. Harris said.

"We miss her so very much," she said. "We will survive . . . but life will never be the same."

Young read a prepared statement apologizing for the incident. He added that he wishes he could bring back Mrs. Mullinix, who worked for the county school system.

"I can only wish I can undo the wrongs that I've done," he told the judge. "In my heart, I still feel I can be rehabilitated. I know I can change."

After the sentencing, Young's mother, Winopa Addison, cried and sat motionless as sheriff deputies escorted her son from the courtroom. She collapsed outside and was treated by county paramedics.

Meanwhile, the dozen relatives of Mrs. Mullinix present for the proceedings comforted one another after Judge Kane called for a court recess. "I was very pleased with the efforts [by county prosecutors] on behalf of the family," Mr. Mullinix said.

Before Judge Kane issued the sentence, Assistant Public Defender Richard Bernhardt urged the judge to give his client the possibility of parole. Despite a childhood of misbehavior, Young could become a productive citizen if he receives counseling while in prison, Mr. Bernhardt said. "Alton will never attend a prom," Mr. Bernhardt said. "He'll never have that feeling of an unimpeded, boundless future. He has forsaken those things. . . . That is his burden."

Young, the only child of a single woman who was 17 when he was born, had had few adult male role models and little contact with his father, who has a background of crime and drugs, Mr. Bernhardt said.

While attending elementary school in Chicago, Young was described as a defiant, resentful boy who was often depressed, the defense attorney said. After moving to Maryland, Young often acted out of anger and impulse.

But Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha argued for the maximum sentence, telling Judge Kane that society needs to be protected from Young.

The prosecutor said that Young has shown no remorse.

"More than anything else, Shirley Mullinix loved life," Mr. Murtha said. "There is no price that can be paid to restore that life to the community."

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