Baltimore man gets life term in Finksburg slaying Judge rejects request by defendant for new trial

September 19, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Southwest Baltimore truck driver convicted in May of killing an Irvington handyman in Finksburg nearly 10 years ago was sentenced to life in prison yesterday in Carroll County Circuit Court.

Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. denied Cordell Albert Patton's motion for a new trial before announcing the sentence and rejected the 41-year-old defendant's plea to remain free on bond pending an appeal.

Hilda Mae Fefel, the mother of the victim, John C. Ruhs, said she would have preferred to see Patton "sitting in an electric chair with Diane Patton and Stephen Lucado holding each of his hands."

Diane Patton, Cordell Patton's former wife, was granted immunity in 1992 before telling prosecutors her version of what happened along a dirt road near Liberty Reservoir the night of March 27, 1987.

Lucado, a friend of the Pattons, pleaded guilty in December to conspiring with Cordell Patton to kill Ruhs. By plea agreement, Lucado, 42, of Roanoke, Va., had all but 13 years of a 35-year prison sentence suspended for his testimony against Patton.

Lucado said that he fired the first shot, wounding Ruhs in the shoulder, and that Patton grabbed the weapon and fired three more shots that killed Ruhs.

During Patton's eight-day trial in May, prosecutor David P. Daggett depicted the defendant as the jealous husband who could not get over knowing that his wife had an affair with Ruhs five months before the slaying.

The jury deliberated less than four hours May 22 before finding Patton guilty of first- and second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, assault, battery, and carrying a deadly and dangerous weapon.

Burns merged the second-degree murder, assault and battery charges with the first-degree murder count, and deferred sentencing Patton on the conspiracy and gun convictions.

Burns called it a "difficult sentencing" because "Diane Patton walks away free."

Patton protested his innocence and begged the judge to grant an appeal bond so he could complete a transaction to purchase a grocery store so his fiancee, her sons and their daughter would have a means of support if his appeal fails.

Fefel, 73, said she had waited a long time for "this day of justice."

"He should never see the light of day until my son has another chance to walk in the sunshine," she said.

Pub Date: 9/19/96

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