Woman gets life in prison for murder

March 12, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

Dionne C. Brooks was spared the death penalty yesterday for the murder and robbery of a Woodlawn woman who had taken her in off the streets last April.

After a daylong hearing, Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II said, "My mind is in 50-50 balance. The tie goes to the defendant."

He then sentenced the 27-year-old homeless woman to life in prison without parole.

"We still don't know the true story about what happened on April 16, 1993, in that apartment," Judge Fader said.

Brooks surrendered several days after the slaying and admitted striking Margaret Mae "Peggy" Kobik, 52, with a bottle and a wood plane -- more than 25 times, according to the autopsy -- and taking her jewelry and automated teller machine cards.

The two women had been drinking at the Lesada Drive home. Brooks gave varying accounts that Mrs. Kobik had threatened, struck or stroked her. Her defense attorney said the actions caused a break from reality due to Brooks' long-standing mental problems.

Judge Fader acknowledged that Brooks had had a "horrible life," but he attributed her problems to a lack of discipline in overcoming drug and alcohol addiction.

"The psychiatric profession has done itself no good . . . in this case," he said.

Mrs. Kobik's family declined comment after the sentencing.

A daughter, Barbara Bernier, had testified yesterday that her mother "was a very giving person. She showed that when she let Dionne come stay at her house, when she knew a little of Dionne's background." Ms. Bernier didn't ask for the death penalty.

Emotional testimony came yesterday from Brooks' mother, Beverly James, who admitted beating her children and said she tried to kill her daughter when Brooks was 15, then denied her existence until they reconciled in September when Brooks called her from jail.

"I could not stop myself," Mrs. James recalled. "I was strangling Dionne with my hands. I wanted to rip her apart. I hated her so much."

She said she dreamed of shooting Brooks and always thought her daughter would succeed in one of her suicide attempts. She said Brooks called her from jail.

"All the anger and hatred I carried around all those years from 1982 [dissolved] when I heard her voice on the phone," Mrs. James said. "I asked 'What can I do?' and she said, 'Mommy, just hearing your voice is enough.' "

Mrs. James said at first she didn't believe her daughter's story that, at 15, the daughter had been raped and impregnated by one of her stepfathers. But Mrs. James said she has since confronted the man.

Mrs. James began sobbing and Brooks bent over and cried uncontrollably.

Judge Fader also found in Brooks' favor that she had no prior convictions for a crime of violence, had cooperated by surrendering and confessing, and had no premeditation in the killing. The only aggravating factor was the robbery.

A jury Thursday convicted Brooks of felony murder, because the killing occurred during a robbery, but found her innocent of premeditated murder. She was eligible for the death penalty because she was the actual killer.

Although Brooks elected to have the judge rather than the jury decide her fate, seven jurors returned to court yesterday -- at least two of them favoring a life sentence.

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