Man pleads guilty in sword slaying

February 10, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A 19-year-old Parkville man who nearly decapitated an acquaintance with a samurai sword at a party four months ago has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Allen Leroy Hilton entered the guilty plea Tuesday afternoon, just before prosecution and defense lawyers were to begin picking a jury. Judge Barbara Kerr Howe immediately gave him the maximum sentence, 30 years in prison.

Hilton told Judge Howe the same thing he had told police, that he was too intoxicated to remember what happened at the party Oct. 9.

Noel M. Franke, 25, a drywall finisher who lived in the 7900 block of Marfield Place in Parkville, was killed after he tried to calm Hilton, who had become agitated at the party they were attending. The two had met and talked earlier that day, Assistant State's Attorney Louis C. Carrico said.

"The victim was truly the peacemaker," Mr. Carrico said yesterday. "He didn't wrestle, hit, punch or swear at the defendant. He was trying just to keep him from hitting other people."

The sword severed Mr. Franke's vertebra, jugular vein and carotid artery. Hilton also struck Mr. Franke in the leg.

Mr. Carrico said that a trial probably would have ended with a second-degree murder conviction because Hilton could have used intoxication as a defense against a charge of first-degree, premeditated murder. Given testimony that Hilton had been fighting at the party, a jury might even have settled on a manslaughter verdict, he said.

Yesterday, Mr. Franke's older sister, Lisa Franke of Woodlawn, said the victim's relatives understood the prosecutor's reasons for accepting the guilty plea but were disappointed nonetheless.

She said her brother "had a habit of breaking up fights. He would just walk in and break it up. He didn't like to see people being picked on."

He also liked fishing, music and dancing, she said.

Whitney Cohen, 23, who accompanied Mr. Franke to the party, said yesterday that they had been good friends for 10 years.

"It's a sad situation where a good man lost his life," she said.

Ms. Cohen said that she also knew Hilton and that two days before the party, he showed her the samurai sword he had just bought.

"He pulled it out, waving it around," she recalled. "I held it, and it was so heavy . . . I asked him, 'What did you buy that for?' and he said, 'To cut someone's head off.' "

Until Mr. Franke's death, Ms. Cohen said, she thought the remark was "a joke, smart aleck stuff."

According to a statement of facts, Hilton arrived early for a 30th-birthday party at the home of Kelly Dore in the 8800 block of Green Needle Drive in Evergreen. He brought along his new 40-inch samurai sword and a birthday cake.

He and two juveniles spent several hours drinking beer and bourbon and sniffing gasoline fumes in the basement before the party began between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

At the party, Mr. Carrico said, Hilton showed off the sword several times. As he became more intoxicated, people told him to be careful. About 12:30 a.m., someone took the sword and hid it. When Hilton became angry and punched the man he thought had taken the weapon, Mr. Franke moved in to break up the fight, holding Hilton so that he wouldn't hit anyone else, Mr. Carrico said.

Hilton was given his sword and told to leave, but instead he broke away from Mr. Franke, ran into a corner of the living room, pulled the sword from its sheath and took a martial arts stance, facing the roomful of guests.

Mr. Franke and several others again tried to calm Hilton without approaching him. When Hilton appeared to be tiring, Mr. Franke turned to leave and walked in front of Hilton, who then swung the sword at the victim's neck.

Hilton fled but was arrested nearby. Police found the sword the next day.

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