Dundalk man gets life plus 10 for murder

July 04, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A 37-year-old Dundalk man received a life sentence plus 10 years last week for the premeditated murder of his wife's lover in August.

John David Dennis of the 3100 block of Baybriar Road admitted the killing but tried to show that it had been manslaughter, not murder.

Dennis sobbed in court Wednesday as he tried to apologize to the victim's family.

But Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl said the evidence supported the jury's April 20 verdict that Dennis committed first-degree murder when he emptied his gun into Mark John Bantz on Aug. 21, 1993.

"This offense was shocking," Judge Kahl said. "I cannot completely escape the concern that I have as a human being about what this man went through . . . that provoked him to this extent, and in that sense, I empathize with his agonizing.

"Certainly there was some provocation for his act," but it fell short of a legal defense to murder, the judge said. He then imposed a life sentence for the murder to be followed by concurrent 10-year terms for use of a handgun and burglary.

Defense attorney David P. Henninger, who asked for leniency, said Dennis will appeal.

Mr. Bantz, 31, was shot nine times in the head, chest and back after Dennis burst into his home in the 8000 block of Edgewater Ave., on Back River near Essex, according to the evidence.

Although Dennis had no criminal record, Assistant State's Attorney A. Dean Stocksdale read a letter in which Dennis boasted to his wife, Robin, of having severely beaten a friend of hers, said he should have killed the man and said she would never see her friend again.

"Just tell Mark he'll be next. He won't be so lucky," Dennis wrote.

"And he's right -- he wasn't," said Mr. Stocksdale, who asked for the maximum sentence of life plus 40 years.

Dennis also pistol-whipped his wife that night, Mr. Stocksdale said. Mrs. Dennis initially cooperated with police, then reconciled with her husband and didn't testify.

But she was heard screaming on the 911 tape, Mr. Stocksdale noted, as Dennis gave the operator his name, admitted the shooting and said, "I'm ready to go to jail." He fled before police arrived, but surrendered the next day. Dennis testified that he didn't remember anything after he drove to the home -- thinking that his wife had agreed to return to him -- and then saw Mr. Bantz embracing her.

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