Murder suspects went free despite parole violations

September 13, 1994|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,Sun Staff Writer

An article in The Sun on Tuesday, based on information from state parole officials, reported incorrectly that Keith Bernard Sterrette, charged in the murder of Baltimore lawyer Marvin Brent Cooper, was paroled through the Mutual Agreement Program. In fact, Sterrette went through regular parole procedure in 1989.

The Sun regrets the error.

Two parolees charged with the murder of a Baltimore lawyer had been jailed previously for parole violations and then released again, state corrections officials said yesterday.

Both men had been jailed for violations after participating in a special contract program with corrections officials to show they were ready to return to society early.


Derek Leone Slaughter, 30, convicted in 1981 of second-degree murder, and Keith Bernard Sterrette, 31, convicted of armed robbery in 1983, were released early in 1989 on the basis of contracts with the Mutual Agreement Program (MAP), said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

But each had been imprisoned again -- and paroled again -- by the time they were charged last week with the murder of Marvin Brent Cooper, 46, who was shot May 28 near his Oakenshawe home while returning from a late-night chess club meeting.

The MAP program allows inmates to be given a guaranteed release date in exchange for adhering to a specific self-improvement program, including activities such as job training and drug treatment.

Slaughter's parole, in 1989, came after he had served nearly eight years of his 20-year sentence; Sterrette had served six years of a 12-year sentence when he was placed on parole the same year.

Both men committed new crimes after being released on the contracts, and were returned to prison for violating parole. But each was paroled again.

Mr. Sipes yesterday did not have details of the activities Slaughter and Sterrette completed to win parole initially.

MAP came under fire in 1989 when Booker T. Jones, a parolee released on the program, became a suspect in the murders of two teen-agers in Glen Burnie.

Bishop L. Robinson, the state's top public-safety official, announced shortly thereafter that those convicted of first- and second-degree murder, among other crimes, would no longer be eligible to enter the program as of June 15 that year.

The prohibition did not apply to prisoners enrolled in MAP before that date. Officials yesterday did not return calls inquiring whether that was true of Slaughter, who was released on MAP two months after the directive.

Slaughter was convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in July 1990, about a year after being released.

His parole was revoked three months later, and he served about six months in prison before being paroled again.

The following year several charges, including battery, auto theft and drug possession, were filed against him but tabled. He was awaiting trial on handgun and drug possession charges filed earlier this month when he was charged with killing Mr. Cooper.

Sterrette's parole was revoked after a November 1990 conviction on two weapons charges and malicious destruction of property. He was paroled again in April 1992, and had only a tabled theft charge until he was charged in the Cooper case.

Mr. Sipes said both Sterrette and Slaughter had appeared faithfully for appointments with case managers while on parole. Both had been employed and had stable home addresses, and Sterrette graduated from a drug-treatment program that was a condition of his release, Mr. Sipes said.

The charges against Sterrette and Slaughter came on the heels of another murder charge against a former inmate under supervision.

Eric Lamont Simmons, 24, a confederate of notorious killer Dontay Carter, was charged last week with the Aug. 31 drug-related murder of Anthony Bernard Wooden, 21, of the 1800 block of N. Castle St.

Simmons had been on "intensive supervision" after his mandatory release from prison last August. Since that time, he was charged with a Halloween night murder, but prosecutors decided not to pursue that charge last March.

While on parole from a 10-year sentence for manslaughter, Simmons was arrested with Carter and several other young men in the Fort McHenry Tunnel, in a stolen van with marijuana, weapons and a stolen credit card.

He served about a year for violating parole and was released again, only to violate a second time.

Mr. Sipes said that in none of the three cases did agents for the Division of Parole and Probation appear to have violated any department policies regarding supervision.

In an interview, Mr. Robinson said that it is impossible to predict when a parolee might commit a new crime.

"There's a certain element of risk any time anyone is paroled," he said.

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