Man gets life plus 20 years in boy's death Blevins was convicted in fatal shooting of child at barbershop

September 30, 1997|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Maurice Blevins was sentenced yesterday to life plus 20 years for the fatal shooting of a 3-year-old boy who was waiting for a birthday haircut at a West Baltimore barbershop.

Baltimore Circuit Judge John C. Themelis called the death of James D. Smith III "every parent's nightmare, which unfortunately has become commonplace in Baltimore City. Regrettably, it is no longer an unusual event, and that is what is so distressing."

Themelis could have sentenced Blevins to two consecutive life sentences plus 45 years for all charges, but the judge combined some of the sentences. Under the sentence, Blevins could be paroled as early as 15 to 20 years.

Blevins, 20, was convicted last month of killing James, assaulting the boy's mother, Cheryl Whittington, 24, and attempting to murder Kenya Davis, 21, during a shootout Jan. 2 in the Fresh Cuttz barbershop on South Carrollton Avenue.

The victims were wounded during a shootout between Davis and Blevins. Blevins said during the trial that Davis shot at him first. He said he fired back to defend himself, but insisted that he did not shoot the boy -- accidentally or intentionally.

Blevins was mostly unemotional during yesterday's proceeding, but said: "I want to give my apologies to the family. I still feel that my gun didn't kill that baby."

Whittington, wearing a button with her son's picture, said after the sentencing that she wasn't sure about the sincerity of Blevins' apology and thought his sentence should have been longer. But, in the end, she said she was glad that the case was over.

"I can deal with that as long as I know he's not going to be on the street any more," Whittington said. "Life has to go on. [James is] at peace now."

The child's grandmother put some of the blame for James' death on the failure of the criminal justice system to convict Blevins on the many charges on which he had been arrested in the past several years.

Blevins had been charged with rape, assault with a deadly weapon, gun violations and drug violations since the early 1990s. But many of those charges were dropped.

"Had he been put away, my grandson would still be alive," said Jeannette Beverage.

In the slaying, Blevins was convicted of charges stemming from a shootout with Davis at the barbershop.

The state contended during the trial that Blevins fired one bullet, which went through Davis and Whittington and hit James, killing him.

The prosecution's argument was based on evidence that a .45-caliber bullet fell from James' black knit cap, which had one hole in it, when police picked it up. The gun Davis had was a 9 mm. Blevins used a .45-caliber weapon, William J. Giuffre, an assistant state's attorney, said.

In deciding the sentence, Themelis said Blevins' troubles with the law were despite efforts to reform him and breaks he had received.

"The defendant was raised by two caring parents who were active in his upbringing," Themelis said. "There were some problems with his early years that each appears to have missed -- all of that had to do with discipline at school or peer pressure on the street."

It was at those times, Themelis said, that Blevins began following a path to his downfall.

"It appears that the criminal justice system did little or nothing to alter in a positive way Mr. Blevins' life, although there were several opportunities," he said.

Pub Date: 9/30/97

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