Wife of Balto. fire lieutenant gets life for role in his slaying

January 10, 1995|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

The wife of a Baltimore Fire Department lieutenant received a life plus 20 years prison sentence yesterday for arranging to have her husband killed two years ago in a staged burglary at their Randallstown home.

In October, a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury found Elizabeth Diane Prior, 33, guilty of first-degree murder of Lt. Wayne Maurice Prior, conspiracy and use of a handgun in the killing.

The 28-year-old lieutenant was sleeping when someone shot him three times in the head about 11 p.m. Dec. 10, 1992, while his wife and her daughter were in another room of their home in the 8500 block of Allenswood Road.

Mrs. Prior, who is 8 1/2 months pregnant, had nothing to say yesterday before sentencing, but a minister and family members told Judge J. William Hinkel they believe she is innocent.

Mrs. Prior's 17-year-old daughter, who wept as she told the judge how much she misses her mother, said she and her 8-month-old child now are living with her grandmother in Stevensville on the Eastern Shore.

Mrs. Prior must make arrangements for her own baby, due in about two weeks. The child was conceived before her arrest, said Assistant Public Defender Rodney C. Warren.

The prisoner will have to plan for the child's care, said Maxine Eldridge, spokeswoman for the state Division of Correction. "The institution does not get involved in placements."

Before handing down the maximum sentence, Judge Hinkel said, "There is little if anything I can say to ease the pain, to heal the wounds of the family of the victim. There is little I should say about the defendant.

"It is not my responsibility to be the avenger, but to impose what I believe is the appropriate sentence. In struggling with this . . ., I can find no sentence that is appropriate that is less than life imprisonment."

The shooter has not been identified, said Assistant State's Attorney J. T. Smith. Detectives said a back door had been left unlocked, and Lieutenant Prior's dog, which normally slept in the bedroom with him, had been locked in the basement.

Assistant State's Attorney Steven I. Kroll said the couple had been having marital problems, and her motive in hiring the killer was to collect insurance money. There was no abuse or any other excuse for Mrs. Prior, he said, calling her "selfish and Manipulative" and referring to testimony at the trial concerning her adultery.

"Wayne Prior had so much to offer," Mr. Kroll said in asking for the maximum sentence. "His reward for all that is three bullets to the head . . . in the sanctity of his own home."

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