Reisterstown man sentenced in slaying

April 22, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Timothy Cumberland was sentenced yesterday to spend 40 years in prison for the murder of a Westminster man he didn't shoot.

"This case is significant, because it is the first drug-related murder here," Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. said as he suspended all but 40 years of a life sentence he imposed on Cumberland for the fatal shooting of Gregory Lamont Howard on Jan. 28, 1993.

"How many more bodies will be chopped up on our streets, sacrificed to the powdery substance of cocaine?" the judge said.

Cumberland, 24, of Reisterstown was the only one of the three men charged in Mr. Howard's death to be convicted of first-degree murder, even though he didn't fire the fatal blast, drive the getaway car or own the murder weapon.

The sentence -- a surprise to Cumberland's lawyer, wife and sister -- means that he probably will not be eligible for parole for at least 20 years.

"Judge Beck deserves credit for this sentence," defense attorney Michael D. Montemarano said. "While the judge's sentence is in excess of what I argued, he did seem to listen to what I said on Tim's behalf."

Mr. Montemarano had asked the judge to impose a sentence of between 20 and 30 years.

Co-defendants Samuel Allen Miller, who fired the fatal shot, and Daniel Justin Leonard, who owned the murder weapon, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in September. Miller is serving a 30-year sentence and Leonard will get no more than 10 years when he is sentenced.

Prosecutors also were surprised by the sentence. Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill had asked Judge Beck to impose a life term without the possibility of parole. She called the judge's sentence "fair and just" after the hearing, but had argued strenuously against giving Cumberland any chance to be free.

"The state and the court should be asked to take no responsibility for the destruction of Timothy Cumberland's life, because he destroyed it himself when he destroyed Gregory Howard's life," she told the court.

Mr. Howard's mother, Patricia Winfield, sat quietly in the row behind the prosecutors' table during the hearing. She declined to comment on the sentence.

Cumberland did not testify yesterday, just as he hadn't during his seven-day trial in February in which a Carroll jury convicted him of first-degree murder, conspiracy and a handgun violation.

But he expressed remorse -- through his attorney -- for the first time. Mr. Montemarano turned, looked at Ms. Winfield and said: "Nothing your son did that night deserved his death. Timothy Cumberland felt remorse from the moment it happened."

Ms. Winfield looked away and shed a brief tear.

Mark Wadel, Cumberland's minister; Jennifer Scheihing, his sister; and Lori Cumberland, his wife, pleaded with Judge Beck to give Cumberland a chance to be free someday. They spoke of Cumberland's rough, fatherless childhood and his caring, compassionate nature.

They said later that they were happy Judge Beck didn't send Cumberland to prison for life, but said they felt the sentence still wasn't just.

"I can't say I'm really happy with the term, seeing as he isn't the one who committed the murder," said Ms. Scheihing, 21.

Mrs. Cumberland, 23, said she doesn't "think justice will ever be done in Carroll County."

Judge Beck admonished Cumberland, called his criminal record -- stretching back to when he was 14 -- terrible, decried drug use and blamed the users for many of society's ills.

"We wonder when our young people will recognize that this self-indulgent use of so-called social drugs is strangling society," the judge said. "When will they learn to get high on life and not high on drugs?"

The night of the murder, the three co-defendants left a Westminster bar and bought a bag of crack cocaine on South Center Street. Cumberland wanted another bag, so the trio, in Leonard's car, drove around the block and returned to buy what turned out to be a bag of soap shavings. Cumberland vowed revenge on the person who had sold them the bogus crack and told Leonard to drive back to South Center Street.

Cumberland got out of the car, brandished a 12-gauge shotgun and yelled at just about everyone in the 100 block of S. Center St. He got back into the car as Mr. Howard leaned over the rear passenger door.

Mr. Howard, who was not involved in either of Cumberland's drug purchases, was shot while the gun was in Miller's hands.

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