Teen gets life term in rape

August 04, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

A 16-year-old Baltimore youth who raped a woman at gunpoint at the Baltimore Highlands light rail station after he found she had no money to steal was sentenced to life in prison yesterday.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge John Grason Turnbull 2nd declared the youth, Timothy Bell, unworthy of leniency.

He sentenced Malik Grooms, 16, who was involved in the robbery attempt, to seven years in prison on robbery and weapons charges. A third youth was found delinquent in juvenile court in March.

Under state law, inmates with life terms are not eligible for parole consideration until after they have served 15 years minus any time credit they earn.

Bell and Grooms, both of Cherry Hill, were 15 when they committed the crimes, just before midnight Dec. 23 near the city line. The third youth, also of Cherry Hill, was 16.

A 28-year-old woman was accosted by three youths at the station in a robbery attempt. When he found she had no money, Bell took her to nearby woods and raped her.

In recent months, crime has become an issue in some light rail communities, particularly in Anne Arundel County. State officials have maintained the crime is more "perception" than reality, but the Mass Transit Administration recently announced plans to spend $100,000 to pay police officers from the city and Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties to provide extra protection at the system's 24 stations.

A pre-sentencing report yesterday said Bell, who failed sixth grade three times and was truant from school for almost all the fall 1993 semester, had been charged several times with juvenile offenses, such as trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Grooms, who said he was sorry and wept, had no previous arrests, Judge Turnbull was told.

The families of both youths appeared in court. Bell's grandmother, aunt and minister said he was respectful around them.

Judge Turnbull rejected pleas by public defenders for a lighter sentence that would enable Bell to get an education in prison and fulfill his "potential to be a good and productive person."

"He doesn't deserve any consideration because of his age," Judge Turnbull said, noting that the stocky, powerfully built youth has refused to admit he committed the crimes and has been in several fights at the county detention center since he was jailed a day after the attack. Bell made an Alford plea when he appeared in court May 17. That means he admitted there was enough evidence to convict him, but did not confess any guilt. Yesterday, he merely indicated he was sorry for the victim and hoped she recovered -- an attitude Judge Turnbull termed "outrageous."

Judge Turnbull added a 20-year concurrent sentence for Bell on handgun charges.

Prosecutor John P. Cox said the woman has quit her job and has vowed never to ride a light rail train again. Mr. Cox said that her impact statement said she becomes "anxious" when she sees someone resembling the three youths.

Jack Leibovitch, Grooms' public defender, told the judge his client wanted no part of a sexual assault and ran away when he realized what Bell was doing. Mr. Cox said the third youth yelled "Come on, man, let's go" to Bell, but to no avail.

Grooms pleaded guilty to robbery and weapons charges May 17. He was sentenced to concurrent 15-year terms for robbery and handgun violations, with all but seven years suspended, and five years probation.

Judge Turnbull said the troubling thing about Grooms was that he had "an impeccable background," but had "started out to commit a robbery."

The three teen-agers set out that night to rob someone, riding the light rail train looking for a victim, Mr. Cox said. An MTA conductor told police Grooms got off a southbound train at the Patapsco Station, but the others signaled him to re-enter after they apparently saw an MTA police car on the parking lot.

The three got off at the next station, Baltimore Highlands, and waited for a victim. A woman returning home from work got off a northbound train about 11:30 p.m.

The woman told police that at least two of the youths were armed. When she told them she had no money, one forced her into the woods, searched her, then disrobed and attacked her, she told police.

The conductor of the northbound train saw the youths approach the woman as the train pulled away and called MTA police.

The officer the youths had seen at the Patapsco station responded and detained Grooms. While he spoke with Grooms, the woman, partially dressed, emerged from the woods and told the officer Grooms was one of the three who had accosted her.

Bell and the third youth were arrested the next day at their homes.

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