Man, 83, pleads guilty to manslaughter Slain activist's husband given suspended sentence

March 07, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

The elderly husband of civil rights activist Marguerite J. Campbell pleaded guilty yesterday to killing her in a moment of anger in November and was given a five-year suspended sentence for manslaughter.

Prosecutor Mark Cohen said he did not recommend jail time for William Campbell, 83, because of his age and because Mrs. Campbell's children did not want to see their stepfather go to prison. Circuit Judge Clifton J. Gordy Jr. issued the sentence.

Mr. Campbell never admitted to police that he killed his wife of 50 years. But Mr. Cohen said he believes that Mr. Campbell cut a dialysis catheter, causing his wife to bleed to death, because he was angry at her for putting their house up as collateral for a grandson's bail.

Shortly before Mrs. Campbell's death Nov. 7, the couple was threatened with losing their South Abington Avenue home after Mrs. Campbell's grandson failed to make a court appearance.

Mr. Cohen told the judge that Mr. Campbell had become upset with his wife because he had "lost some trust in her."

The prosecutor noted that police found Mr. Campbell washing his wife's bloody pajamas on the morning of the killing. They found no evidence that anyone else had been in the house.

Although Mrs. Campbell, 79, suffered from kidney and respiratory problems and had a leg amputated, "There is no indication of a mercy killing," Mr. Cohen said.

Defense attorney Robert P. Thompson said that Mr. Campbell has never explained what happened the day his wife died. "We're not sure, because of his age, what he remembers about what happened," he said.

"But there is no one sorrier than Mr. Campbell that his wife is not here," Mr. Thompson said.

Mr. Campbell made no statements in court yesterday, answering Judge Gordy's questions only with a "Yes, sir" or "No, sir."

Mr. Campbell, who works in the car lot of a Howard County auto dealership, declined to be interviewed after the sentencing.

Mrs. Campbell's children also declined to comment. A niece, Peggy Wall, said, "We just love him and know he's innocent."

Mrs. Campbell was a well-known city activist for more than 30 years, fighting for civil rights, better schools and recreation programs.

Called "Daisy Bates" by her family and friends after the Little Rock, Ark., civil rights activist, she also founded the Carroll Improvement Association in Southwest Baltimore.

Pub Date: 3/07/96

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