Man gets life term in slaying of Middle River minister

April 12, 1996|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

A Harford County man was sentenced to life without parole yesterday for the fatal stabbing of a Middle River minister in a crack cocaine dispute Christmas Eve 1994.

James Thomas Wood, 25, also was given a 20-year sentence for robbery by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl.

Wood, who was engaged to be married and about to begin college, stabbed the Rev. Samuel N. Booth Jr. 14 times and slit his throat in the minister's trailer behind Christian Faith Tabernacle Church on Middle River Road. A jury convicted Wood in December of first-degree murder and robbery.

At the sentencing yesterday, Wood's parents pleaded for Judge Kahl to allow a chance for parole, saying their son was raised in the church but was bedeviled by a drug addiction that began when he was 11.

"I feel like I brought a lamb to the slaughter," his mother, Joyce Wood, tearfully told Judge Kahl.

Wood confessed to state police after the slaying, in which he kicked and stomped Mr. Booth's head and ribs when the 55-year-old minister refused to give him crack cocaine. Wood took a knife from the kitchen and stabbed Mr. Booth 14 times, slit his throat and left the trailer as the dying minister called out, "Jamie," according to prosecutors and testimony.

Assistant State's Attorney James O'C. Gentry Jr. said it wasn't drugs, but Wood's capacity for violence that caused Mr. Booth's death, and that Marylanders needed protection from him.

He also said previous drug rehabilitation programs did not work, and that Wood's record included armed robbery, burglary and ** theft convictions. He was on parole at the time of the slaying.

In imposing the sentence, Judge Kahl said, "The cocaine is an explanation for what occurred. It is not a justification. The only question I have to face is whether it is a basis for mitigation."

Then he imposed the maximum sentence, saying, "This is one of the most violent, most offensive crimes that can be imagined."

Pub Date: 4/12/96

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