A 39-year-old stockbroker was sentenced yesterday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court to 25 years for the slaying of his girlfriend in her Glen Burnie apartment.
Thomas General Jr. of the 1600 block of N. Capitol St. in Washington was sentenced by Judge Bruce C. Williams after being convicted by a jury May 30 of second-degree murder.
Mary Gadson, 34, was beaten with a hammer and stabbed two dozen times in her apartment in the 7800 block of Tall Pines Court on June 5, 1994.
Before sentencing General, Judge Williams considered reports from his supporters, who said he had no previous criminal record and was a good father and role model.
"I seriously doubt that this was something that Thomas initiated or even intended to do," one of the supporters, Jamie Mae Frazier said in a letter included in the court record.
Ms. Frazier, who lives in Philadelphia wrote that General was a good parent to the child he fathered with her 20 years ago.
She said he also built a house for his mother and helped take care of her until she died this year.
He was a "rags to riches" example in Beaufort, N.C., where he grew up, putting himself through college and escaping the poverty of the working-class community, she said.
"Thomas is not the sort of person who would deliberately commit violence," Mr. General's sister, Rubie L. General wrote in another letter.
Second-degree murder, which carries a 30-year maximum prison term, means the jury decided that the crime lacked the premeditation required for a first-degree murder conviction.
A first-degree murder conviction carries a maximum term of life in prison.
State sentencing guidelines, which take into account a defendant's background and the nature of the offense, recommended a sentence of 12 to 24 years, said assistant public defender James McCarthy, General's lawyer.
In a five-day trial, General admitted killing Ms. Gadson but said it was a case of manslaughter and not murder because the killing occurred during a fight in which he was trying to defend himself.
General, a former Army captain with a master's degree in business management, told jurors he went to Ms. Gadson's apartment because she had agreed to take him back after a monthlong separation.
They began arguing soon after he arrived, about noon, and Ms. Gadson threw a hammer at him, hitting him on the right side of the head, he said.
General said he picked up the hammer and hit her on the head with it, but that she ran from a bedroom to get a steak knife in the kitchen, where the fatal stabbing occurred.
Prosecutors said the evidence was more consistent with a cold-blooded murder.
Assistant State's Attorney Eugene M. Whissel said neighbors heard Ms. Gadson crying for help for at least five minutes before she died and that General stabbed and slashed her 27 times.
He said General washed and fled, running into the woods, where he was caught by police after a manhunt.