Suspect apparent suicide

April 27, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

An article in yesterday's Carroll section of The Sun incorrectly reported the age of Robin Debra Cherry, an Owings Mills, who woman facing charges in a murder case who police say committed suicide. She was 27.

* The Sun regrets the error.

A 24-year-old Owings Mills woman, whose former boyfriend was sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder less than a week ago, shot herself to death Monday in a wooded back yard in Reisterstown, police said yesterday.

Police identified the victim as Robin Debra Cherry. She was scheduled for trial next month in Carroll Circuit Court on charges stemming from the Jan. 28, 1992, slaying of Gregory Lamont Howard in Westminster.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

She died from a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a Baltimore County police spokesman.

Ms. Cherry's body was discovered shortly after noon Monday in the first block of Hanover Pike by a neighbor who had gone outside to sunbathe, the sergeant said.

Neighbors had reported hearing two gunshots shortly after 8:30 a.m. Monday, nearly four hours before the body was discovered, the sergeant said. A large-caliber revolver was found near the body.

Police did not identify the victim until late Monday. Sergeant Doarnberger said preliminary results of an autopsy yesterday indicate that Ms. Cherry killed herself.

Attorneys, police, friends and co-workers said Ms. Cherry's final days were filled with torment over the 40-year sentence that her former boyfriend, Timothy Cumberland, received Thursday in Carroll Circuit Court.

Cumberland, 24, was convicted of first-degree murder by a Carroll jury in February for his role in Mr. Howard's death.

Ms. Cherry was in a car with Cumberland and two other men when Mr. Howard was shot beside the vehicle in a soured drug deal.

"She [Ms. Cherry] called me the day my brother was sentenced," said Jennifer Scheihing, 21, who was at Cumberland's sentencing hearing last week. "She wanted to exchange some personal things, some clothes, some pictures. She was scared and upset about going to jail. She knew all of the money in the world wouldn't keep her out of jail."

Cumberland's sentence -- the harshest meted out in the wake of Mr. Howard's slaying -- made Ms. Cherry even more afraid she would be sent to jail.

"She was petrified, she was really scared," said Melissa Kerr, 24, who worked with Ms. Cherry at a Friendly's Restaurant in Reisterstown and had known her for six years. "She cried because she knew that no matter what she did, she was going to jail."

Ms. Cherry, her lawyer and prosecutors were to meet yesterday to hammer out pretrial motions and discuss a possible plea agreement.

Assistant State's Attorney Eileen McInerney, one of the TC prosecutors in Ms. Cherry's case, called the apparent suicide "tragic." She said that the plea bargain on the table called for Ms. Cherry to serve no more than 18 months in the county jail.

If Ms. Cherry had been convicted of the most serious charge against her -- accessory after the fact to first-degree murder -- she could have gone to prison for five years.

Ms. Kerr -- who lives with Cumberland's wife of two weeks, Laurie Cumberland -- said she and Ms. Cherry went shopping last weekend.

"Whenever she was depressed, she shopped," Ms. Kerr said.

And, her friends said, Ms. Cherry often had the money to go shopping. At Friendly's, she was an aggressive waitress, often working far more than her scheduled 30 hours a week, said her boss, Larry Lidard, a manager at the restaurant. "She was very money conscious," he said. "She was always filling other shifts."

Mr. Lidard and Ms. Kerr said Ms. Cherry worked a double shift Sunday and then went home.

She went to a friend's house near where her body was found, Ms. Kerr said, and called the restaurant asking to be let out of her 8:30 a.m. shift Monday.

She couldn't get off work, her friend said, so she got dressed.

Ms. Cherry was in her waitress uniform when police found her body, several blocks from the restaurant.

"It's hard to believe she killed herself," said P. Paul Cocoros, her attorney. "She was such a helpless, defenseless person."

Ms. Cherry's parents, through a family member who identified himself as a brother, declined to talk yesterday about her death.

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