Getaway driver gets life term in burglary that led to murder

July 23, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

The family of a 27-year-old Dundalk man left a Baltimore County courtroom yesterday denouncing the criminal justice system that gave him a life sentence for serving as the driver in a burglary that turned into a grisly murder.

David Wayne Couch cried, insisted he was innocent and even interrupted Circuit Judge James T. Smith Jr. as he handed down the sentence. Couch's mother, Mildred Couch, prayed aloud in court.

An equally tearful relative of murder victim Patricia Jane Kaczynski said Couch should die as she did: bleeding to death in her Dundalk living room, where an intruder slashed her throat.

Under Maryland law, someone who willingly participates in a serious crime is responsible if a murder occurs and can receive a life sentence, but not the death penalty.

Homicide detectives said Couch, of the 200 block of St. Helena Ave., admitted driving the getaway truck and serving as a lookout for the man who killed the 44-year-old Mrs. Kaczynski on Aug. 29 at her home in the first block of Liberty Parkway, Dundalk.

The intruder, not yet charged in the slaying, entered the home by breaking a pane of glass and turning a key that had been left in the deadbolt lock on the kitchen door, according to the testimony.

Theodore Kaczynski Sr., 51, who was sleeping upstairs when the attack occurred, described for the jury how he came downstairs about 8 a.m. to find his wife with her head nearly cut off.

At yesterday's sentencing, as at the trial, Mr. Kaczynski was repeatedly overcome by emotion -- made worse, he said, by defense attorney Gerald D. Glass' continued attempts to portray him as a suspect.

"He attempted to show reasonable doubt, [but] to try to make me the murderer. . . .," Mr. Kaczynski said, sobbing. "He pointed at me . . . that I could be the murderer."

He and more than a dozen of his children and other relatives filled one side of the small courtroom, while about the same number of Couch's family filled the other side.

Sheriff's deputies stood ready to separate the families, but Couch's relatives were more interested in pursuing an appeal.

Judge Smith denied a motion for a new trial, saying the evidence was more than sufficient and rejecting criticism of the police investigation.

Noting Couch's extensive criminal record, much of it linked to his alcoholism, the judge agreed to recommend that he be housed at the Patuxent Institution, where he can receive treatment.

Assistant State's Attorney Jason League said later that Ronald Edward Keihl, 26, the man named in testimony but not yet charged with killing Mrs. Kaczynski, is being held without bond for trial next month in Baltimore City on an unrelated murder charge.

Mr. Keihl is accused in that case of bludgeoning to death a former girlfriend's mother, who was found dead in her bed in June 1987, Baltimore prosecutors said.

Mr. League told members of Mrs. Kaczynski's family yesterday that Mr. Kiehl would be charged with her murder.

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