A convicted sex offender was sentenced to life in prison yesterday after a surprise guilty plea on the eve of his trial for the 1992 murder of 11-year-old Michael Shawn Gasque.
Warren C. "Ice" Berry, 32, entered the plea a day after he threw a temper tantrum on the witness stand in a pretrial hearing over questions about the nature of his confession to police.
In that confession, admitted into evidence yesterday, Berry told detectives that he played basketball with the Gasque boy in West Baltimore. Afterward he lured the boy into a shed, saying he needed help finding his keys.
Then Berry took out a folding knife and raped the boy.
"He kept saying, 'I'm going tell,' and I didn't know what to do," Berry said in the statement. "I kept telling him, 'Stop, stop, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm going to let you go.' Then after, I don't know. I don't know. I didn't mean to kill him."
Berry stabbed the boy 44 times, according to police -- leaving the body in the shed and throwing the knife into woods behind his mother's house in the 3900 block of Glenhunt Road.
Berry pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, a first-degree sex offense and carrying a deadly weapon, receiving two concurrent life sentences from Judge Robert I. H. Hammerman. In exchange for the plea, Assistant State's Attorney William D. McCollum Jr. withdrew his request for a sentence of life without parole.
Members of the Gasque family were surprised at the plea, entered a day after Berry insisted his confession was involuntary because police had offered to get him psychiatric help in exchange for making a statement.
"It's just a relief that it's over," Monique Mack, Michael's half-sister, said yesterday. "A conclusion, so you can start on."
Berry was first charged with the Gasque killing a day after the boy's body was found Dec. 18, 1992. But in what prosecutor Timothy J. Doory described as "the most distasteful decision I have ever had to make as an assistant state's attorney," charges were dropped because of insufficient evidence.
They were filed again 10 months later, after Berry was arrested on charges of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy he met in Northeast Baltimore. After consulting with his mother and uncle, Berry confessed the Gasque murder to police.
Berry was sentenced last week to 30 years in prison after he was convicted of abusing the 13-year-old.
Berry had been released from prison in January 1991 after serving 11 years of a 15-year sentence for sex offenses.