Man is convicted of killing his wife at her Essex job

April 27, 1995|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

Christopher J. DeHart testified yesterday that he was enraged because his wife was leaving him in December, when -- fueled by alcohol and cocaine -- he went to her workplace in Essex and killed her by firing a shotgun into her back.

DeHart said he did not remember the shooting but believed that his wife of 13 years, Bridget DeHart, had found another man. Assistant Public Defender John Henderson argued DeHart was guilty of a crime of passion -- manslaughter, not premeditated murder.

But Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger disagreed. He did not even leave the bench before finding DeHart guilty of first-degree murder after a two-day, nonjury trial.

"This is not a crime of passion, this is a crime of control and a crime of cocaine," Judge Bollinger said, as DeHart hung his head. But the judge said DeHart was not so intoxicated that he could reduce the verdict to second-degree murder.

DeHart faces a maximum penalty of life in prison at sentencing June 27.

According to testimony, DeHart, 33, repeatedly called his wife at Allied Products Co. Dec. 15, then showed up yelling for her -- with a shotgun hanging from the back of his sweat shirt.

When Mrs. DeHart appeared, co-workers said, DeHart took her by the shoulder and fired the fatal blast. DeHart was wrestled to the floor and held until police arrived at the business in the Pulaski Industrial Park.

DeHart and his 30-year-old wife had separated several times over money problems, according to testimony. At the time of the murder, DeHart was living in a trailer on property owned by his grandfather. His wife and their two children, ages 9 and 13, were living with her mother, Shirley Funk.

Mrs. Funk said DeHart threatened her daughter's life the day before the killing, when she went to her husband's trailer. Co-workers testified DeHart called Allied Products that day to say she had quit.

DeHart wept often as he testified, turning his head away and blowing his nose. "She came down and told me that she wanted to end our relationship," he said of their Dec. 14 meeting. "She didn't want me no more."

Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Bailey pointed out to Judge Bollinger that only DeHart testified that his wife had been unfaithful and characterized his defense as "trashing the victim."

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