Man, 36, gets life term in retiree's murder Musician strangled her with a dog leash

September 25, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A 36-year-old musician was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without parole for strangling a retired nurse in her home outside Annapolis.

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. sentenced Richard Willoughby of the 200 block of Victor Parkway, Annapolis, for the April 15, 1995, murder of Katherine Huntt Ryon, 74.

Willoughby had made an insanity plea, but he withdrew it in July, admitting that he was mentally competent when he killed Ryon.

She was strangled with a dog leash after letting Willoughby and James McGee, 42, a longtime family friend, into her home in the 400 block of Waggamon Circle.

McGee, Willoughby's roommate, was sentenced in June to life in prison without parole after a jury convicted him of first-degree felony murder.

McGee, whose mother had been close friends with Ryon, brought Willoughby to the victim's house in Wild Rose Shores because they were looking for money to buy drugs, according to testimony in McGee's trial.

At McGee's direction, Willoughby strangled Ryon with a dog leash after she told them that she had no money for them.

Willoughby apologized yesterday for the murder, saying that he only recently has begun to realize the extent of his mental problems and that he would like to help raise his 19-month-old son, who lives with his former wife and her husband in Montana.

"I have a little boy that lives with his mother that I love dearly, and I'd like to be a part of raising him," said Willoughby, who played guitar in an Eastern Shore band.

Thieme said yesterday that Willoughby's roommate might have manipulated him into committing the murder but that he was still a danger to society.

"There's no doubt that he can be led, but the issue is that he can be led to such an extent as to take another human life," the judge said.

Assistant public defender Carroll McCabe, Willoughby's lawyer, had asked Thieme to give Willoughby a life sentence and suspend all but 20 or 30 years.

That would require that Willoughby had the governor's approval before he could be paroled, she said.

But the victim's relatives and neighbors called Willoughby's comments "self-serving." They said they were were gratified by Thieme's sentence.

"He [Willoughby] came across today as an articulate manipulator," said William L. Ryon Jr. of Springfield, Va., the victim's nephew.

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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