Stewart gets life plus 30 years for killing teen Landover man shot girl outside Crofton pool hall in March 1995

January 15, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A Landover man professing his innocence was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without parole plus 30 years for killing a teen-ager outside a Crofton pool hall.

William "Danny" Stewart's assertions that a co-defendant lied about Stewart's involvement in the shooting to cut himself a deal did not get any further with Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner yesterday than they did with a jury in November. "There certainly has been adequate evidence that it was Mr. Stewart who did this," Lerner said.

Stewart was convicted of first-degree murder and eight related charges in the March 20, 1995, shooting death of Catherine Elizabeth Webster, 16, of Bowie, outside Crofton Billiards.

Stewart's mother, Cynthia Holland, who told the judge that her son was not a killer, ran from the courtroom, her face buried in her hands, as Lerner finished pronouncing the sentence.

The victim's family and friends declined to comment.

Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Rogers had made an emotional plea for a sentence of life without parole, saying that no sentence would resurrect the victim or heal her family but that Stewart's past firearms and armed robbery convictions show he is a menace. Quoting from a Webster family letter, she said, "Memories are not enough."

Robert B. Saunders, 22, of Hanover, who was driving the car in which Webster was a passenger and who identified Stewart as the shooter, said the sentence "was what I was hoping for." Nearly three years later, the crime haunts him, and he continues to "watch my back constantly," he said. "Probably a day doesn't go by without thinking something about it -- you know, the memory," said Saunders, who was wounded in the attack.

Defense lawyer L. Douglas Jefferson said he will appeal because the sentence was "too harsh" for a 25-year-old, the testimony was conflicting, and "I just don't think he did it."

In rambling remarks, Stewart, of the 6900 block of Hawthorne St. in Landover, said prosecutors were more interested in closing the case than in finding the truth.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee disputed that, saying an exhaustive investigation led to the apprehension of Stewart and his co-defendants.

"I sympathize with the Webster family, and I am sorry for their loss, but it wasn't me that took their daughter," Stewart said. He said co-defendant Rueben L. Williams, 23, formerly of Landover, did it and hung Stewart out to dry in a deal with prosecutors.

Williams agreed to testify at Stewart's trial in return for prosecutors' recommendation of a 20-year sentence for conspiracy to commit robbery to run concurrently with a 12 1/2 -year federal sentence he is serving on armed robbery and other charges.

Joseph L. Stewart, 22, William Stewart's brother, entered a similar plea and is to be sentenced Feb. 4. He named his brother as the shooter, then recanted in court.

The Stewart brothers and Williams had gone to the pool hall parking lot to rob a Domino's Pizza employee as he made a night deposit at a nearby bank. The three had seen an employee do so the previous week. But the worker did not show up, prosecutors said.

The three saw a Nissan driven by Saunders pull onto the pool hall parking lot about 11 p.m. Saunders testified that when he saw the pool hall was closed, he started to drive away but slowed down when Stewart approached the Nissan because he thought Stewart might need help.

Stewart lifted his shirt, revealing a .357-caliber Magnum stuck into the waistband of his pants, prosecutors 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, they said.

Pub Date: 1/15/98

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