Second man charged in slaying of trooper in Oct. pleads guilty He was in car with man who shot Tfc. Plank

August 02, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

In an article in yesterday's editions, the first name of Edward A. Plank Jr., the Maryland state trooper slain in October, was incorrect.

The Sun regrets the errors.

A Brooklyn, N.Y., man who was charged as an accomplice in the October slaying of Tfc. Eric A. Plank Jr. pleaded guilty yesterday to drug and murder charges in federal court and could face a 20-year prison sentence.

William Smith Lynch, 21, will be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis on Sept. 19.

He agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a 20-year sentence.

Early on the morning of Oct. 17, Lynch was accompanying his cousin, Ivan Lovell, as Lovell drove home to Manteo, N.C., after a drug-buying trip to New York. Plank stopped them for speeding on U.S. 13 in Princess Anne, and Lovell shot Plank in the face and killed him. Both men fled. More than 3 pounds of crack cocaine was found inside the car.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Lovell was sentenced to death in June after pleading guilty to first-degree murder.

After yesterday's arraignment, Plank's father, Edward A. Plank Sr., said he was satisfied with the sentence, considering the limitations of the law.

The U.S. attorney's office "told me 20 years was about the best they thought they were going to get," Edward Plank said. "I would have liked to see him get the death penalty, just like his cousin got. He's just as guilty."

Lynch originally was charged with murder by the Somerset County state's attorney. That charge was dropped, and he was indicted by a federal grand jury because that is the only way Lynch could have been charged in the slaying, said Katharine J. Armentrout, chief of the Violent Crimes and Narcotics section of the U.S. attorney's office.

Lynch admitted being in the car when Lovell shot Plank and knowing that Lovell had the loaded .45-caliber Llama semiautomatic handgun used in the shooting.

Under Maryland law, accomplices may be charged with murder in some circumstances, but not in a drug conspiracy. Therefore, Lynch couldn't be charged with murder unless he was an active participant in the shooting.

Under federal law, a participant in drug trafficking that leads to murder can be charged with murder, with a maximum penalty of life in prison.

More details of Plank's death emerged during yesterday's hearing. Plank's suspicions about the two men he stopped for speeding were aroused when he realized that Lovell was using a false identification card, according to a statement of facts read in court by U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia.

When Plank asked Lovell, who was driving the red Plymouth Sundance, for his license, Lovell said he didn't have one but handed Plank an identity card in the name of Charles Billups. Plank called in the information on the card and found that Charles Billups was a licensed North Carolina driver with no outstanding warrants.

Plank wrote two citations, for speeding and for failure to have a driver's license. He returned to the car and gave the tickets to Lovell, who signed them with his real name, not that of Charles Billups.

"The trooper caught this error, and according to William Lynch's taped statement, said to Lovell, 'You don't know how to spell your name,' the statement of facts said.

Plank returned to his cruiser and requested that Trooper Dennis Lord provide backup. After Lord arrived, Plank told him he thought the men had something to hide and that he was going to ask them to consent to a search of their car.

As Lord went to his car to retrieve a flashlight and a two-way radio, he saw Plank lean into the driver's window of Lovell's car and ask Lovell to step out.

The door open slightly, and Lovell shot Plank at a range of 12 to 18 inches. After a gunbattle with Lord in which Lovell was injured, Lovell drove a short distance down U.S. 13. Lynch then asked that Lovell stop and let him out. Lynch ran into the woods and was caught the next day.

Pub Date: 8/02/96

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