City man, 20, pleads guilty to slaying girl, 5 Both were in foster care, living with same family

November 07, 1996|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

A 20-year-old Baltimore man pleaded guilty yesterday to murdering a 5-year-old girl with whom he had been staying in foster care.

Wearing a striped shirt, tie and baggy jeans, Jeffrey Clarke Weigel quietly acknowledged slaying Latisha Dozier, the child whose family he had lived with for two weeks when he raped and stabbed her to death in a drunken haze Nov. 14, 1995.

Latisha was found with multiple stab wounds -- 13 to her face alone -- and an extension cord wrapped around her neck, Assistant State's Attorney Laura Mullally told the judge.

Under a plea agreement in which Weigel also admitted first-degree rape, the maximum sentence that can be imposed by Baltimore Circuit Chief Judge Robert I. H. Hammerman is life plus 20 years. That opens the door for Weigel to get parole consideration in about 17 years, though he has no guarantee it would be granted. Weigel's attorney, Charles Bernstein, is free to argue for a lower sentence when the judge makes his determination Dec. 13.

Weigel had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but withdrew that plea yesterday. Bernstein told the judge he was satisfied his client was competent to stand trial.

Weigel had been placed in the Pimlico home of Rosa Lee McNeil, Latisha's grandmother and caretaker, by a private company, WIN Team Services, upon referral from Family Preservation Initiative, a state-funded, nonprofit agency that arranges for services for troubled youths. McNeil said she accepted Weigel on the condition that he not drink in her home.

But the afternoon before Latisha died, McNeil unexpectedly was admitted to the hospital for heart trouble, leaving her daughter -- Latisha's mother, Patricia Dozier -- to care for the children. Late that night, Patricia Dozier found Weigel covered with blood in a bedroom and Latisha's body under a sheet.

Rosa McNeil wept as Mullally recited in the courtroom the facts surrounding the child's death. Afterward, McNeil said: "God knows what's best. I'm just going to let him work it out for me."

Outside the courtroom, McNeil embraced Weigel's parents, Dallas and Susan Weigel of Guilford, who adopted him at an early age.

McNeil said the Weigels had come to her granddaughter's funeral and that she did not hold them responsible for what their son had done.

"When they see me, they just cry," she said.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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