Severn man receives life plus 20 years in Odenton death

September 19, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The man convicted of killing an Odenton shopkeeper and shooting three others in an attempted robbery drew a prison term of life plus 20 years yesterday.

The sentence disappointed both the victims' families and the defendant's lawyer.

The families had hoped that Dean L. Prue Jr., 23, would be given a sentence of life without parole, sought by prosecutor Frank Ragione. Rodney Warren, Prue's lawyer, had asked for a sentence near the 25-year minimum listed in sentencing guidelines.

The sentence imposed by Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Martin A. Wolff leaves it possible Prue could be paroled, but his first parole review probably would not occur for at least 17 years.

Prue, who lived in the 8300 block of Timberlake Court in Severn, maintained his innocence and plans to appeal. He said he knew that the victims' families "were hurting," but said his family "is also hurting."

Prue's mother, Antoinette Prue, cried as deputies put handcuffs on her son.

'Let him go'

Asked earlier by Prue's lawyer what she wished the judge to do, she testified, "I think he should let him go."

Ruthie Riggin, Prue's fiance and mother of his two children, testified, "I love him. He has been my heart and soul as long as I can remember."

She described him as a loving father who financially and emotionally supported his family. Riggin said she did not believe Prue was guilty.

Prue had asked the judge to allow parole, so that he would have hope of being reunited with his family.

Life without parole would mean he would spend "more time in prison than I have spent on this Earth," he said.

Prue was convicted in July of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Thomas Sung Hall, 63, in the family-run Tom's Liquors and Korean Restaurant in Odenton on Aug. 31 last year.

He also was convicted of three counts of assault with intent to murder and related charges in the shootings of Hall's wife, Sue Jin Hall, 56, as she stood by the cash register, and of two Seven Oaks men who were outside the store with their families.

The survivors had hoped for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

"This is the next best thing," said Michael Couture, 31, who has a bullet from the attack lodged in his back, a steel rod implanted in his right arm and permanent lung damage.

He and his wife, Gail, said their teen-age son is only now starting to recover emotionally from the trauma caused to the family. The son's grades, which plummeted last year, are coming back up, but he remains fearful of men who resemble Prue, Couture said.

Scott Neil, 42, who was shot in the leg, said of the sentence: "I don't know if it's enough for the Hall family. They will do without a grandfather, a father. He was a well-respected man."

'It's just the fear'

Sue Jin Hall, who limps from her injuries, declined to comment.

"It's not just three families," said Neil, who serves on the board of the community association for Seven Oaks, the neighborhood that lies behind the Route 175 strip where the Halls' store is located.

"It's just the fear -- something like this devastates the sanctity of our community," he said. "And look at all the people in Seven Oaks who moved out."

"For Sale" signs sprouted on the lawns of about 30 homes within a few weeks of the crime. The neighborhood put up a fence separating it from the back of the stores and strengthened other security measures.

Odenton businesses suffered because few customers showed up after dark -- even though the shootings occurred during daylight. For weeks, at least one restaurant had little dinner business.

The killing prompted the residential and business communities to work closely with police, who added foot patrols at the strip, especially in the evening, and undertook drug sweeps and undercover operations.

Tom's Liquors, closed for nine months after the shooting, reopened in May, an emotionally difficult decision the family made when it could not sell the business. Sue Jin Hall still works there occasionally.

Pub Date: 9/19/97

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