Annapolis man gets life in 1995 slaying Victim was strangled in her home

second man awaits hearing

June 13, 1996|By A SUN STAFF WRITER

The heir to a $1 million estate will spend the rest of his life in prison without chance for parole for his role in the slaying of a 74-year-old retired nurse, who was strangled with a dog leash in her home.

James Calvert McGee, 42, of Annapolis was sentenced by Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner after a hearing in which his lawyer admitted he had nothing good to say about him.

McGee was convicted by a jury of first-degee murder and robbery in the April 15, 1995, slaying of Katherine Huntt Ryon, a longtime family friend.

Lerner said McGee had wasted "every opportunity in the world," squandering his $2,850-a-month trust fund income after being raised in a comfortable home and attending the Key School, a prestigious private school.

"Where in the world did you go wrong?" Lerner asked. "You just threw your entire life out and, in throwing your life out, you injured other people."

When Lerner asked McGee's lawyer, J. Michael Wachs, if he could think of "one nice thing to say" about his client, his response was candid.

"Not much, not much," Wachs said. "He's had a hard life."

McGee and his roommate, Richard Willoughby, walked to Ryon's home in the 400 block of Waggamon Circle because McGee hoped to get money from Ryon, who was a close friend of McGee's late mother, according to testimony.

Testimony showed that -- as McGee watched -- as Ryon was strangled with a dog leash after she said that she had no money to spare.

McGee and Willoughby were arrested a few days later after an acquaintance of Ryon saw them with a suitcase filled with her jewelry. They were stopped by police in the victim's 1990 Volvo.

Willoughby, 36, has entered an insanity plea. He is scheduled to have a hearing July 11.

Wachs asked the judge to give McGee a 40-year term, arguing that the killing was not planned and that his client's 30-year drug addiction led him to stand by as Ryon was strangled.

"Every single offense he's been involved in has involved drugs," Wachs said.

But Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler called McGee a career criminal, who "for the past 20 years has either been on probation, on parole or in jail."

Roessler said Ryon supported McGee after his mother's death in 1993, visiting him in jail and lending him money.

"He repaid the kindness she showed to him throughout his life by standing by and watching a friend slowly strangle her to death," Roessler said.

As he spoke, Reid Buckley, a neighbor and friend of the victim, sobbed from a bench a few rows behind him.

"She was a wonderful woman," Buckley said later.

Roessler said McGee's criminal record dates to 1976 and includes convictions for burglary, armed robbery, robbery and possession of cocaine.

Ryon's relatives and neighbors in the Wild Rose Shores community expressed relief yesterday after the sentencing of McGee.

"I don't think there's any question that the community of Annapolis is safer with him behind bars," said William L. Ryon Jr., the victim's nephew.

A letter to the judge written by Buckley and signed by 22 neighbors said that McGee "began terrorizing the neighborhood the age of 13 and his crimes only progressed in seriousness over time."

Pub Date: 6/13/96

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