Jury convicts man of fatally shooting teen-ager outside Crofton pool hall Stewart could receive life without parole

November 25, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County jury took two hours yesterday to convict William Dereck "Danny" Stewart, 25, of first-degree murder and eight other counts in the 1995 shooting death of a teen-ager outside a Crofton pool hall.

"I'm really thrilled," Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Rogers said.

"I feel like they finally got some justice," she said of the family of Catherine Elizabeth Webster.

Webster, 16, of the 14000 block of Lancaster Lane, Bowie, was shot twice in the back of the head as she sat in the back seat of a car as it left the parking lot of Crofton Billiards on March 20, 1995.

Stewart, of the 6900 block of Hawthorne St. in Landover, could be sentenced to life in prison without parole when he comes back before Judge Eugene M. Lerner on Jan. 14.

He was indicted in June 1997 on charges of murder, attempted murder, attempted carjacking and eight other counts after two companions, including his younger brother, told investigators and a grand jury that they saw him shoot at a car in the pool hall parking lot.

Robert B. Saunders, who was driving the car in which Webster was a passenger, was wounded. Another man in the car was not injured.

The verdict came after Stewart's lawyer and Rogers told jurors that they had to make an all-or-nothing decision: If they believed Stewart was present in the parking lot, they should find him guilty.

Stewart's younger brother, called by the prosecution, changed his version of events yesterday and said Stewart was not in Crofton the night of the shooting.

Contradicting statements he gave to Anne Arundel County police and his testimony before a county grand jury, Joseph Leo Stewart, 22, of Landover, testified that his brother was not present at the shooting and that another man, now dead, was the gunman.

Prosecutors dismissed the turnaround as the action of a man afraid to accuse his own brother of murder to his face.

But according to William Stewart's lawyer, the turnaround was the latest in a series of lies Joseph Stewart has told to save himself because he may be the shooter, not William Stewart.

Joseph Stewart resembled a police composite sketch of the shooter as much as his brother, lawyer L. Douglas Jefferson said in his closing statement. And Joseph Stewart and Rueben L. Williams were arrested in Georgia in 1995 for committing armed robberies using the same gun used to kill Webster, Jefferson said. Williams, 23, formerly of Landover, testified Thursday that the gun belonged to him.

"I believe either Joseph Stewart or Rueben Williams is the person who shot [Saunders] and killed Catherine Webster," Jefferson said.

Prosecutors allege that William Stewart, Joseph Stewart, Williams and another man went to the 2100 block of Priest Bridge Road in Crofton with plans to rob a Domino's Pizza employee. They had seen a Domino's employee making a bank deposit in the area on another night, but no employee showed up March 20.

Instead, a Nissan 300 ZX carrying Webster, Saunders and another man pulled into the lot of the closed pool hall, and William Stewart decided he didn't want to go home empty-handed, Rogers said in closing statements.

Stewart approached the Nissan and Saunders slowed down because he thought Stewart might need help, Rogers said. But Stewart lifted his shirt, revealing a .357-caliber Magnum stuck in the waistband of his pants, Rogers said. As Saunders started to drive away, Stewart fired at the car, hitting Saunders, then 19, in the back, and Webster twice in the head.

In testimony Thursday, Saunders pointed to William Stewart as the man who told him to get out of the car, then showed him the gun.

But Joseph Stewart said his brother was not there that night.

He said he lied to detectives in October 1995 and to a grand jury in June 1997, telling them William Stewart was the shooter to get back at his brother, who treated him "like nothing" when they were growing up.

"I figured [police] would dig and find out I was lying," he said under cross-examination. "That's why I figured I could get back at him this way -- make him sweat."

Joseph Stewart had agreed to testify for the prosecution in return for a recommendation of a 13-year sentence for conspiracy to commit armed robbery, but Rogers said she is reconsidering the deal. Stewart is serving eight years and one month in federal prison for several armed robbery charges not related to the Crofton case.

Williams is serving a 12 1/2 -year federal sentence on armed robbery charges and agreed to testify in return for a recommendation of a concurrent 20-year sentence for conspiracy to commit armed robbery in the Webster case.

Pub Date: 11/25/97

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