Life plus 15 years given in murder Restaurant worker died in robbery try

September 04, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Shelton Lamont Wood was sentenced yesterday to life plus 15 years in the killing of a Glen Burnie restaurant worker during a botched robbery -- a "horrible crime" that traumatized two families and victimized anyone who heard of it, an Anne Arundel VTC circuit judge said.

"I guess it's grieving a lost life and grieving a life lost," Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. told the weeping families of Wood and his victim, Betty Lou Johnson, as he imposed sentence.

On a gun conviction, Wood was sentenced to 15 years, to be served consecutive to the life term called for in plea agreement for first-degree murder.

Prosecutors had agreed to drop four less serious charges and a request for a life sentence without possibility of parole.

The defense argued that life was enough of a sentence for the 23-year-old, but prosecution sought added time to lengthen the time before Wood is eligible for parole.

Johnson's relatives said they were pleased with the sentence, although it was 5 years short of the maximum that most of them and prosecutors wanted.

Wood shot Johnson, 48, of the 7900 block of Telegraph Road in Severn, point-blank when she startled him during a robbery attempt Sept. 15. She died on the kitchen floor of the Old Country Buffet in the 6600 block of Ritchie Highway.

"If I am half the mother that she was, when raising my kids, then I will be doing a wonderful job," said Barbara Crane of Severn, her daughter.

Standing before Heller, Crane described her mother as "a hard-working, honest woman with a gentle spirit [who] hated no one. Shelton Wood is everything that my mother was not."

The victim's husband, David Johnson Sr., left the courtroom when Wood and his lawyers spoke because he did not want to hear anything about Wood, Crane said.

A son, David Johnson Jr. of Frederick County, cried as he said his mother had never seen her newest grandchild -- his son, Morgan, born Dec. 30. The family found baby gifts Johnson had been accumulating in anticipation of the birth of her fifth grandchild.

His lips quivering, Wood, of the 2400 block of E. Oliver St. in Baltimore, apologized to the Johnson family and to his parents, who were so choked up that they asked Assistant Public Defender Heather Q. Hostetter to speak for them.

"I have remorse inside, even if I don't show it," Wood said.

But some of the Johnson family said later that although they believed Wood's parents were sorry, they doubted Wood was.

Hostetter said Wood's crime was an aberration, that he had jobs as a security guard for a private firm and as laborer and parking lot attendant at the Baltimore Zoo to try to better himself. Tormented by learning disabilities, he quit school after 10th grade and twice flunked the high school equivalency test.

Hostetter called Wood "a wimp" and said his demanding girlfriend drew him into the crime.

Wood, Tia Monique Evans, 18, of the 3000 block of Southland Ave. and Christopher Rian Nelson, 18, of the 3000 block of Ascension St., both in Baltimore, planned the robbery.

Evans, who worked at the restaurant, pleaded guilty in February to attempted armed robbery in exchange for cooperation with police. She has not been sentenced. Nelson, whom she identified as the driver, is scheduled for trial Oct. 2.

Pub Date: 9/04/97

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