Whittlesey sentenced to die in gas chamber

April 20, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

DENTON -- Michael Whittlesey, who robbed and killed a classmate in 1982 and buried the body Gunpowder Falls State Park, was sentenced by a Caroline County jury last night to die in Maryland's gas chamber.

Whittlesey was convicted of robbing 17-year-old Jamie Griffin in 1984, but the murder prosecution was delayed for years while authorities and Jamie's parents searched the park for the remains that were finally found in 1990.

The trial, moved to the Denton courthouse from Baltimore County at Whittlesey's request, ended with his conviction on capital murder charges March 29.

"Judas got his day," Norville Griffin said after the sentence was pronounced on the killer of his only child.

The jurors deliberated about seven hours, asking early on whether he could be sentenced to life without parole. Judge J. Owen Wise sent a note to the panel saying, simply, "No."

In deciding on the death penalty, jurors had to find that the aggravating circumstance of the case -- that the murder was committed in the act of robbery -- outweighed mitigating factors.

The jurors agreed that Whittlesey had no juvenile or adult criminal record, was just 18 years old when the crime occurred, and came from a dysfunctional family.

Some of the jurors also noted that he had a gambling problem, and felt he was unlikely to commit another crime or be a threat to society.

Whittlesey never testified in either his robbery or murder trial. But on Friday, he broke his 11-year silence and spent nearly two hours pleading with jurors for his life. But he offered few details of what happened on April 2, 1982, the day Jamie disappeared, and did not apologize or express sympathy in court for the Griffin youth's family.

Whittlesey said on Friday he was unsure exactly what happened in the park in eastern Baltimore County because he was high on LSD he had gotten from Jamie.

He said he recalled being frightened and unable to walk in a straight line.

"We were using LSD on April 2, 1982," he said. "I was stupid. I was foolish. I was wrong. But I can't take that back."

After Judge Wise instructed the jury and lawyers completed closing arguments yesterday, Whittlesey asked if he could address the jurors one more time. The request was denied.

The case was unusual because of the disappearance of young Griffin, a gifted pianist and senior at Dulaney High School, and the gap of nearly a decade between his killer's trials -- first for the robbery, and then the murder after the body was found.

In 1984, a Baltimore County jury found Whittlesey guilty of robbing Jamie and stealing the family's car and other belongings.

Authorities found the car in Atlantic City, N.J., in May 1982, about six weeks after Jamie disappeared.

Whittlesey was sentenced to 25 years for the robbery and has been in prison since then.

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