New evidence delays sentencing in Ruhs murder Convicted man's lawyer says defendant was set up

August 27, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

New evidence in the 1987 murder of an Irvington handyman near Liberty Reservoir has led a Carroll County judge to delay sentencing of Cordell Albert Patton, who was convicted in May of the shotgun slaying of John C. Ruhs.

Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. said he would reconvene a hearing "in two to three weeks" after considering new evidence presented yesterday in a motion for a new trial.

Patton was convicted May 22 of first- and second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, assault, battery, and carrying a deadly weapon in the March 27, 1987, slaying.

Michael Kaminkow, Patton's attorney, told Burns that a private investigator employed by his firm was trying to verify recently received information that as many as four people may have heard his client's former wife, Diane, brag in 1991 that she had set up Patton for a murder someone else committed.

Kaminkow said statements from three of the four people -- Robert Richards of Glen Burnie, Mary Virginia Hare of South Baltimore and Robert Handley of Cumberland -- supported the motion for a new trial.

Richards and Hare testified yesterday.

The fourth person, Mary Sigler, the Pattons' former baby sitter now living in Brunswick, was subpoenaed but failed to appear.

Kaminkow told Burns that he had spoken to Handley by telephone last week.

Kaminkow argued that the testimony of the potential witnesses could not have been known to the defense before Patton's trial because they had not come forward with the information.

Hare told the court that she was in a South Baltimore laundromat in 1991 when she heard the Pattons arguing over child custody. Hare said Diane Patton appeared angry and intoxicated.

After Cordell Patton left, Hare said Diane Patton told her that she would do anything to keep him from getting custody of their children and that she had set Patton up for a murder charge.

Stephen A. Lucado, a friend of the couple, pleaded guilty in December to conspiring with Cordell Patton to murder Ruhs. According to the plea arrangement, Burns suspended all but 13 years of a 35-year sentence against Lucado, 42, of Roanoke, Va., in June.

Diane Patton was granted immunity, provided she was not the killer.

At Cordell Patton's trial, prosecutor David Daggett built his case on the theory that Patton, 42, was a jealous husband who could not live with the fact that Ruhs had had an affair with Diane Patton five months before the slaying.

Kaminkow argued that Diane Patton, not her husband, masterminded the plot to kill Ruhs, using Lucado as a pawn to implicate Cordell Patton.

Lucado testified that he fired the first shot, wounding Ruhs. He said Cordell Patton then grabbed the shotgun and fatally shot Ruhs.

Cordell Patton denied firing the shotgun.

Pub Date: 8/27/96

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