Man attempts to withdraw guilty plea in wife's death

August 26, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A Parkville man who pleaded guilty to shooting his wife in September in front of their 4-year-old daughter tried yesterday to withdraw his plea -- upset because the judge gave him more time than the prosecutor had recommended.

David M. Laurendine Sr., 51, of the first block of Teakwood Court, entered an Alford plea Aug. 1 to first-degree murder and use of a handgun -- in effect denying the crime while admitting that the state had evidence that could convict him.

In return for the guilty plea, Assistant State's Attorney Kim Detrick agreed to ask for a sentence of no more than 50 years in the death of Darlene Laurendine, 36, a special education teacher at Harlem Park Middle School. Defense attorney Leonard S. Freedman had sought a 30-year term.

However, Circuit Judge Barbara Kerr Howe, who was not bound by their plea bargain, imposed the 50-year sentence -- then added 20 years for the handgun conviction.

After the judge denied a motion by Laurendine's attorney to withdraw the plea, the pale, agitated defendant said, "I did not understand. I did not read the plea agreement."

Referring to the holding cell, he said, "Have you ever been back there, ma'am? You cannot read back there."

When he ignored repeated warnings to be silent, Judge Howe stopped the proceedings and said a motion to reconsider the sentence would be rescheduled.

Both lawyers said Laurendine admitted killing his wife early on Sept. 28, but he denied that it was premeditated -- claiming that he planned to kill himself that night after several years of unemployment.

Instead, he took his .38-caliber Smith & Wesson into the bedroom where his wife was asleep with their daughter, Brittany, according to a statement of facts. Mrs. Laurendine awoke, and he shot her three times in the back and arm. As she struggled to get away, Laurendine put the gun to her neck and fired the fatal shot. The child awoke to see her father kill her mother.

The body was discovered later that morning after the police forced their way into the couple's townhouse, Ms. Detrick said.

A sister-in-law had reported that Laurendine dropped the child off with her, saying he had just killed his wife. The child was covered with blood.

Laurendine surrendered that evening.

In support of first-degree murder, Ms. Detrick said police found the telephone lines had been disconnected.

Neighbors also told police the couple argued frequently and that Mrs. Laurendine might have been preparing to leave.

Mr. Freedman said the case probably will be appealed. He also objected to Judge Howe's reading of an anonymous victim-impact statement that asked for the maximum sentence -- life plus 20 years -- although the prosecutor had said the family agreed to the plea bargain.

Opposing the motion to withdraw the plea, Ms. Detrick said the judge had focused on the child witnessing the killing "and the defendant's comments taking very little blame on himself, yet blaming everybody else for what had transpired."

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