2 life terms given in slayings Death penalty rejected in barbershop murders

November 12, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

ROCKVILLE -- A Montgomery County jury decided yesterday against sending Jeffrey Damon Ebb, 26, to the gas chamber and instead sentenced him to two life terms without parole for the murders of a popular Catonsville barber and a customer.

The jury had convicted Ebb last week of two counts of felony murder for killing James E. Brodie, 57, and Michael S. Peters Jr., 20, during an attempted robbery of Mr. Brodie's barber shop last Nov. 28.

The murders disrupted life in the neighborhood surrounding the shop in the 400 block of Winters Lane. Mr. Brodie's nephew, Claymon Andre Stevenson II, said the family had lost its anchor and "the neighborhood has lost the community sense -- the gel -- that kept us together. We feel alienated, robbed, destroyed."

The jury also convicted Ebb of attempted second-degree murder for shooting a 27-year-old patron of the shop.

The jury did not convict Ebb of first-degree premeditated murder but found him guilty of felony murder because the deaths occurred during an attempted robbery. Felony murder is a capital offense if the defendant pulled the trigger.

Baltimore County prosecutors sought the death penalty.

At the time of the shootings, Ebb, an unemployed carpenter with some college credits and a former altar boy, was on parole for assault. During closing arguments Wednesday, Assistant Public Defender Debra Michael told the jurors that if they sentenced Ebb to life without parole, "he would draw his last natural breath in maximum security at the penitentiary."

Ebb's mother, Alice, said that her son loved animals, raised pigeons as a child, played high school basketball and was in the Marine Corps Reserve. Wednesday, Ebb wept and pleaded for his life.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I don't want to die," he cried. "I'm not a bad person."

Though Ebb's son, Jeffrey Jr., 7, was home with the chickenpox, the defense gave the jury an 8-by-10-inch photograph of a radiant, smiling boy. Alice Ebb also begged the jury to reject the death penalty.

"It's going to destroy me -- and, more importantly, my grandson," she said.

While defense attorneys emphasized the jury's finding that Ebb did not intend to shoot the men, Assistant State's Attorney Angela White argued that Ebb was "a loose cannon" and too dangerous to remain alive, even in prison.

Ms. White and her fellow prosecutor, Timothy Gunning, also recounted Ebb's criminal record, which started with an assault at age 12. By the time he was 15, Ebb had moved to daytime house-breaking and assault with intent to rob and, at 16, to possession of a deadly weapon.

"When the robbery didn't go the way he wanted, he could have left," said Ms. White. "Instead, he shot Mr. Brodie four times in the back, shot Mr. Peters in the face -- then stepped over Mr. Brodie's body to attempt to get into the cash register."

Leon Alvin Peters said his nephew, Michael, was an honor student at Polytechnic Institute. He was working two jobs and studying electronics and real estate.

He was a Jehovah's Witness and had gone to Mr. Brodie's shop because he needed a haircut before making door-to-door visits. Michael picked Mr. Brodie's shop because it opened early -- before 6 a.m., said Alvin Peters.

Mr. Stevenson, Mr. Brodie's nephew, said his uncle was "more than just a barber and his shop was more than just a barbershop."

"To the youth in the community, the barbershop was a community center," he said. "It was also a day care center: People would leave their little children to get their hair cut, and leave for hours at a time to run errands, while Uncle James watched the children.

"It was a lending institution: He gave freely of his time and his monies to people in the neighborhood," Mr. Stevenson said. "You entered his doors, you became his friend."

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