Cleaning man gets life term for murder at dieting center

October 01, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A Baltimore County judge sentenced a former Dundalk cleaning man to life in prison yesterday for the fatal stabbing of a young woman in 1991 at a diet center in Towson Marketplace.

Robert P. Lipinski, 30, was convicted of first-degree murder in a retrial last month after his first conviction was overturned. He testified that he snapped and attacked Eugenia "Gina" Courtalis in a file room at the Nutri-System Center because she told him to hurry and finish cleaning the office.

Lipinski said they argued, and the pressures of his job with the Genie Cleaning Service and an impending eviction from his apartment sparked a blind rage. Ms. Courtalis, 22, of the 4200 block of Darnall Road in Perry Hall, was found dead June 1, 1991, with a dozen stab wounds.

Lipinski, who also had received a life sentence in the first trial in 1992, apologized to the Courtalis family yesterday. Circuit Judge Lawrence R. Daniels said he didn't believe Lipinski's account of how the slaying happened, speculating that it was "just as likely" that he was caught stealing from the victim's purse or had made a sexual advance.

"It simply makes no sense that this man with this prior background would do that for this reason," Judge Daniels said. If Lipinski was provoked for the reasons he gave, "then he has a very dark side, which causes him to be a danger to anybody in this community," the judge said.

Defense attorney Walter F. Balint asked for a 20- to 30-year term. Assistant State's Attorney Robin S. Coffin sought a life sentence.

The Maryland Court of Appeals returned the case to the county for retrial because of a change in the legal definition of first-degree murder. The court said a defendant must have "sufficient time to consider the decision whether or not to kill and weigh the reasons for and against such a decision." The old instruction to juries had said a criminal could form the intent to kill in a second.

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