Man given life term in Columbia slaying

April 22, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A Baltimore man who once was among the state's 10 most-wanted fugitives was sentenced to life in prison yesterday for the execution-style slaying of another man in Columbia nearly five years ago.

Kent Daniel Tillman, who had eluded police for four years before he was arrested in Jamaica last summer, was given an additional 10-year prison term for shooting the victim's girlfriend.

Tillman, 30, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and assault with intent to murder in Howard Circuit Court in January in the Aug. 12, 1989 shootings. He will be eligible for parole in 17 1/2 years.

Tillman was sentenced after begging for mercy and forgiveness, saying that he is a changed man who has found religion.

"I have a lot of remorse in my heart for what happened," said Tillman, who wept through most of yesterday's proceedings. "I accept this responsibility on my own. . . . All I can do is try to better myself."

But Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr. told Tillman that he didn't believe him. He questioned why Tillman did not turn himself in and face the charges against him if he was truly a changed man.

"For four years you sat there and we -- the citizens of the United States -- had to pick you up," Judge Sybert said.

Tillman pleaded guilty to shooting Sherman Joseph Chenault, 26, of Baltimore, twice in the head at close range in a dispute over drugs. He also shot Mr. Chenault's 25-year-old girlfriend, Sharrell Yvette Hudson, also of Baltimore.

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

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell urged Judge Sybert to focus on Tillman's crimes -- not his tears and religious conversion.

"It was not a crime of passion," Ms. O'Donnell said. "It was not a situation of self-defense. This was an assassination."

But A. Gallatin Warfield III, an Ellicott City attorney for Tillman, asked Judge Sybert to give his client a lenient sentence so that he could turn his life around.

Mr. Warfield asked the judge to avoid the cynical perception that is often given of defendants who claim "jail-house conversions."

The Rev. Marvin Jones, a minister with the Long Reach Church of God in Columbia, testified that Tillman has participated regularly in religious classes and counseling programs at the county Detention Center.

Linda Givens, Tillman's cousin, testified during yesterday's hearing that Tillman was heavily involved in selling and using drugs before the shootings. She said his family tried to steer him away from drugs, but he fought their efforts.

But after his arrest, Tillman decided to plead guilty to the charges against him, despite his family's efforts to hire lawyers and form a defense for him, Ms. Givens said.

"He took it upon himself to plead guilty," said Ms. Givens, of Baltimore. "He said he wasn't looking for an easy way out. I saw a peace in him that I thought I would never see."

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