Woman convicted of murder, robbery

March 11, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A Baltimore County jury yesterday found Dionne C. Brooks guilty of felony murder and robbery in the beating death of a Woodlawn woman who gave her shelter after she was released from a drug program.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Brooks, 27, who murdered and robbed 52-year-old Margaret Mae "Peggy" Kobik at the victim's apartment on April 16.

The jury rejected a spirited defense argument that Brooks was not criminally responsible for her actions because of well-documented mental and emotional problems that dated to 1981.

The jury did find her not guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, deciding that the killing occurred during a felony -- the robbery. The panel was tentatively scheduled to return today to decide whether she will be sentenced to die. Defense attorneys said it was the first capital case against a woman in the Baltimore area in at least a decade.

Using medical records and expert testimony, defense attorneys portrayed Brooks as a tortured and suicidal woman, brutalized by a mother who tried to kill her when she was 15 and sexually abused by a stepfather who tied her up and raped her, threatening to kill her sleeping siblings if she made any noise. She eventually left home and went to live on the streets -- trading sex for food, shelter, drugs and alcohol.

During the last of many hospitalizations over 12 years, she became friends with the victim's son, Sampson N. Goodwin, 33, now of West Palm Beach, Fla. He took her home in March 1993 to stay with him and his mother at their Lesada Drive apartment, testimony showed.

According to the defendant's account, she and the victim became despondent and decided to get drunk when they learned Mr. Goodwin planned to leave town. On the way to buy wine, Brooks said, they stopped to get money at an automated teller machine and she memorized the victim's identification code, with a vague plan to steal the victim's ATM card and use it later.

Sometime during the evening, Brooks struck the victim in the face with the wine bottle, wrapped an extension cord around her neck and then beat her repeatedly with a carpenter's plane from Mr. Goodwin's tool kit. She then left with the ATM card and some jewelry.

Defense attorneys said Brooks suffered a break from reality and flew into an uncontrollable rage. Prosecutors called it a premeditated murder and robbery.

A few days later, Brooks surrendered and confessed.

Assistant State's Attorney Deborah L. Robinson told the jury of seven women and five men that the use of three weapons, the number of blows, and the theft and pawning of Ms. Kobik's property to buy drugs showed Brooks acted with intent.

"This is not a case about who we feel more sorry for," Ms. Robinson told the jury. "The defendant is not the victim [and] her hard life . . . cannot excuse the deadly decision that she made."

Assistant Public Defender Patricia Chappell told the jury that the victim conceded that she had committed the crime, but was not responsible for her actions.

"It only makes sense with the psychiatric evidence. . . . We don't make this up: This is a sick woman. She's damaged, and she meets every one of the criteria for a major mental illness . . . The bitter and relentless pain that Dionne could never forget caused her to break with reality and slip into the dark recesses of an uncontrollable rage."

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