Man given 25 years in slaying Victim was shot in Westminster after drug deal went wrong

February 01, 1996|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,SUN STAFF

A 26-year-old Reisterstown man was sentenced to 25 years in prison yesterday for his part in Carroll County's first drug-related killing three years ago.

It was the second time Timothy Cumberland, who was convicted of second-degree murder Nov. 7, had been sentenced for killing Gregory Lamont Howard about midnight Jan. 28, 1993, on Center Street in Westminster.

Cumberland's 1994 conviction for first-degree murder was overturned by appeals judges on grounds that Carroll County Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. had incorrectly instructed the jury on the meaning of intent.

Prosecutors have said the murder was the result of a drug deal after which Cumberland and two friends became angry because they were sold soap flakes instead of cocaine.

Mr. Howard, who was 22 at the time, was acting as a peacemaker and had nothing to do with the soured drug deal, prosecutors have said.

"It's been a hard, long three years," said Mr. Howard's mother, Patricia Winfield. "It's not going to bring my son back, but it's comforting to know that everyone involved is being punished."

The sentence imposed yesterday, which includes a concurrent three-year term for carrying a deadly weapon, is considerably shorter than the one Cumberland received two years ago. Then, he was sentenced to life in prison with all but 40 years suspended.

Cumberland's sister, Jennifer Scheihling, testified yesterday that her brother should have received an even shorter sentence, particularly because he wasn't the one who owned the weapon, pulled the trigger or drove the getaway car when Mr. Howard was killed.

"My brother did not murder or kill anyone," Ms. Scheihling said through tears yesterday. "He's sorry that he was even there."

Ms. Scheihling also testified that she and her brother were abandoned and abused as children and were left to raise themselves when she was 13 and he was 14. Although Cumberland has been in and out of jail since age 14, his most recent experience behind bars has changed him, she said.

"My son wants his favorite uncle back," Ms. Scheihling said. "Please give him a chance to be with his family again."

Prosecutors -- who have always argued that Cumberland was more culpable than his two co-defendants -- said the 26-year-old should get 30 years in prison, five more years than is recommended in sentencing guidelines.

During the weeklong trial in November, prosecutors said Mr. Howard, 22, had gotten in the way of Cumberland's anger.

They gave this account of the incident: Cumberland and two friends, Daniel Justin Leonard and Samuel Allen Miller, drove to Center Street to purchase crack cocaine. When they were sold soap flakes instead, Cumberland became angry and jumped out of the car, swinging a shotgun like a club. When he got back into the car, he handed the gun to Miller, and it went off in Miller's hands.

Miller and Leonard pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in September 1993. Leonard, who owned the shotgun, is serving 10 years in state prison, and Miller is serving 30 years.

"You have to look at the potential danger to the public," said Assistant State's Attorney Clarence W. Beall III, noting that the shooting occurred on a townhouse-lined street in Westminster. "Look at the number of people who could have been in jeopardy."

Cumberland, who has been incarcerated since Jan. 30, 1993, was given credit for the three years he has served.

Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold said yesterday that he would recommend that Cumberland serve his time at Patuxent Institution in Jessup, a state institution that offers psychological treatment and rehabilitation.

Cumberland's attorney, Judson K. Larrimore, an assistant public defender, said he and his client are considering an appeal.

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