Boy gets 4 years in a killing over air in bike tire Victim's mother tells of family's grief

August 03, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

A Millersville teen-ager was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison for his role in the death of a 16-year-old neighbor, who was killed in an argument over who let the air out of the victim's bicycle tire.

Steven C. Barrett Jr., 17, of the 8300 block of Brookwood Road was sentenced by Circuit Judge Martin A. Wolff.

He was convicted April 29 on involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Charles H. Cross, 16, of the 8300 block of Oakwood Road, Millersville.

Barrett, who sat with his head bowed throughout most of the hour-long sentencing, had originally been charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 6 killing.

But the verdict of involuntary manslaughter meant that jurors found Barrett guilty only of "grossly negligent conduct," and that limited his term to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The defendant's mother, Catherine Barrett, who sat clutching a family Bible throughout most of the three-day trial last spring, burst into tears when the judge pronounced sentence. She later declined comment.

But the victim's parents said they were glad that their son's killer would finally be spending time behind bars.

Barrett had remained under house arrest pending sentencing,

first at one relative's home in West Virginia, then at another in Baltimore County.

John Cross Sr. said he wrote a letter to Judge Wolff asking that Barrett be incarcerated, if only to send a message that "all this violence has to stop."

"These senseless things, like a death over air in a bicycle tire, seem to be happening more and more, and it has got to stop," he said.

The boy's mother, Delores Cross, had made an emotional plea to the judge to punish her son's killer, saying he had ruined their family.

"Our home and our hearts are so empty and lonely without him," the mother said, her voice choked with emotion.

According to testimony, Barrett rushed out of the house of his former girlfriend, Wendy Rice, in the 200 block of Poplar Ave., Millersville, shortly before 8 p.m. on Oct. 6 to come to her aid.

Barrett pushed young Cross, who had been arguing with the girl and another neighbor about who had let the air out of his bicycle tire.

The Cross youth knocked Barrett to the ground and was stabbed in the ensuing fight. He died about four hours later at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

David Schretlen, a clinical psychologist who interviewed Barrett

and prepared a report at the request of his defense attorney, told Judge Wolff that Barrett is of average intelligence, suffers from mild depression and is hostile toward authority because of a disrespect for authority that he has learned at home.

"They do not attach much value to education," said Mr. Schretlen, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Assistant Public Defender Mark Blumberg had asked that Barrett be allowed to stay at a 162-acre Gettysburg, Pa., farm owned by a friend of the Barrett family until state money could be secured to pay for Barrett's treatment at a residential school for troubled youths.

"Keep in mind the jury found in this case that Steven Barrett acted recklessly, that he acted unreasonably, that he acted carelessly, but that he did not intentionally bring about the death of Charles Cross," Mr. Blumberg said.

But Assistant State's Attorney Frank Ragione said that Barrett's track record showed he would be unlikely to respond to any form of treatment.

He reminded the judge that pretrial services supervisors had complained to the court that Barrett was not complying with orders to stay on the properties where he had been under house arrest pending sentencing.

"He [Barrett] told the house arrest people that he didn't care about their rules," he said.

Mr. Ragione asked for a sentence that would be "at the higher end" of the one- to six-year term spelled out by state sentencing guidelines, which include such factors as whether the crime is an offender's first crime and the type of weapon used.

"Steven Barrett was the conductor of an orchestrated set of facts that cost Chuckie Cross his life," he said.

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