Manslaughter plea in spouse burning

August 10, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A weeping Patricia Ann Hawkins pleaded guilty to manslaughter and arson yesterday, admitting that she doused the bed where her husband of 11 years was sleeping and set it on fire last Thanksgiving weekend.

Milton Hawkins, 32, died from smoke inhalation and burns over 35 percent of his body several hours after the blaze at 4:30 a.m. Nov. 24. The couple lived on the 6100 block of Marquette Ave. in Rosedale.

The defense contended that Mr. Hawkins had beaten and threatened to kill his wife throughout their marriage and had attacked his wife's teen-age niece and threatened the couple's young son that night.

Although the crime echoed the television docudrama "The Burning Bed," defense attorney William M. Monfried said Mrs. Hawkins hadn't seen the movie and wasn't familiar with the case upon which it was based.

The terms of the plea bargain call for Assistant State's Attorney Mark H. Tilkin to recommend that Mrs. Hawkins serve one year of a five-year term, with probation for the remainder. She could receive up to 10 years on the voluntary manslaughter conviction and 30 years for arson when she is sentenced Oct. 18 by Circuit Judge Barbara Kerr Howe.

Both the defendant's and the victim's families want to address the court before sentencing, the attorneys told Judge Howe.

Mrs. Hawkins, 31, who now lives across the street with her sister, originally was charged with first-degree murder and responded with an insanity defense.

According to the statement of facts introduced by Mr. Tilkin, Mrs. Hawkins told the police that a fight had occurred that evening and that her husband had threatened to to kill her if she left. She admitted setting the fire.

"I did it. I lit it on fire. I set the bed on fire with lighter fluid and then lit a match and threw it on the bed," she told investigators, who found a melted container and the remains of a lighter by the bedside.

What had changed that night was the threat to the couple's children, Mr. Monfried said. The pair had adopted a 6-year-old girl but had not finalized the adoption of 1-year-old Milton Jr., who was taken away after the killing.

On the night Mr. Hawkins was killed, Mr. Monfried said, he had been out drinking. When he returned at 1:30 a.m., he was so drunk that he mistook Mrs. Hawkins' 15-year-old niece for his wife. Calling the girl by Mrs. Hawkin's name, he punched her in the face, then became enraged as his wife comforted the girl, claiming that Mrs. Hawkins always sided with her family.

Mr. Hawkins had his infant son in one hand but tossed the boy away to punch his wife in the face, Mr. Monfried said.

Mrs. Hawkins, a slight woman who works as an insurance rater for a Towson firm, had been on home detention with an electronic monitor since her arrest.

That was revoked with her conviction yesterday, Mr. Monfried said, but she will be allowed to participate in a work release program.

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