Ex-fugitive could get life for 1989 Columbia slaying

January 11, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Baltimore man who once was among the state's 10 most-wanted fugitives could be sentenced to life in prison after accepting a plea agreement yesterday for the 1989 murder of a man in Columbia.

Kent Daniel Tillman, 29, entered into a plea agreement on charges of first-degree murder and assault with intent to murder before Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr. in Howard Circuit Court.

Tillman, who had eluded police for four years before he was arrested in Jamaica last summer, pleaded guilty to the execution-style slaying of Sherman Joseph Chenault, 26. He also pleaded guilty to shooting Mr. Chenault's 25-year-old girlfriend, Sharrell Yvette Hudson of Baltimore.

The shooting, witnessed by the couple's 5-year-old daughter, occurred Aug. 12, 1989, in a car parked along the 6600 block of Waning Moon Way in Owen Brown Village.

Prosecutors will seek a sentence of life imprisonment plus 10 years for Tillman at a hearing on March 22, making Tillman eligible for parole in 17 1/2 years.

County prosecutors had planned to seek a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for Tillman if the case had gone to trial.

At yesterday's hearing, Tillman sat with his hand covering part of his face as Senior Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell outlined the prosecution's case against him.

Ms. O'Donnell noted that Tillman, after his arrest in Jamaica, acknowledged having shot Mr. Chenault, saying, "If I didn't kill that man, he would have killed me."

Ms. O'Donnell noted that Tillman had gone to Mr. Chenault's home every day for a week while Mr. Chenault visited his father in Connecticut. Mr. Chenault returned on Aug. 10 -- two days before he was killed.

Police were called to Waning Moon Way at about 12:40 a.m. to respond to reports from residents that they heard gunshots, Ms. Donnell said. There, they found Mr. Chenault slumped over in the front seat of a black 1984 Buick Riviera, idling in a parking space with its right turn signal on.

An unloaded 9-mm handgun was discovered in the trunk.

Mr. Chenault had been shot in the back of his head and on the left side of his neck. He was still wearing a seat belt.

Near the car, the officers found Ms. Hudson, who had been shot in the head near her left temple, Ms. O'Donnell said. She was trying to comfort her daughter, who was not injured.

While she was being treated at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Ms. Hudson gave police a statement in which she identified Tillman as the gunman, Ms. O'Donnell said.

The woman told investigators that she and Mr. Chenault earlier that night went to a home off Rolling Road in Baltimore County, where Mr. Chenault gave Tillman a large amount of money, Ms. O'Donnell said.

Police reports say Mr. Chenault used the money, possibly as much as $17,000, either to buy a kilo of cocaine or to set up a business deal with Tillman's brother.

Tillman traveled with Mr. Chenault, Ms. Hudson and their daughter to Columbia, directing them to Waning Moon Way, Ms. O'Donnell said.

Ms. Hudson reported that she believed they were going to the home of Tillman's brother.

Another man, Michael Butler of Baltimore, followed them in another car.

Once the car was parked, Tillman started firing gunshots, Ms. O'Donnell said.

After the shooting, Tillman and Butler fled in the second car.

Butler, a friend of Tillman's, was arrested about a month after the shooting.

Butler was later sentenced to five years in prison for being an accessory after the fact to the murder.

Tillman, however, remained at large.

Soon after he fled, his name was placed on the Maryland's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list.

Tips from Howard police to the Maryland Joint Violent Crimes Fugitive Task Force -- which is made up of federal, state and local police -- led to Tillman's arrest by Jamaican authorities on July 29 in Kingston.

Tillman, formerly of the 900 block of Belnord Ave., was in Jamaica for at least three years, police say.

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