Man serving life term pleads guilty to drug possession Murderer was found unconscious in cell

March 20, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Convicted murderer James C. McGee pleaded guilty yesterday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to having heroin in his cell at the Maryland House of Corrections Annex, where guards found him in drug-induced unconsciousness last summer.

"There is not a whole lot more the court can do to Mr. McGee," defense attorney J. Michael Wachs told Judge Ronald A. Silkworth.

McGee is serving life without parole plus 10 years for strangling to death Katherine Huntt Ryon, a friend of his mother, in April 1995 for drug money. His roommate, Richard Wayne Willoughby Jr. of the 200 block of Victor Parkway in Annapolis, also was convicted in the murder.

Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler sought the maximum sentence of four years on the drug charge, but after reviewing sentencing guidelines that recommended less, Silkworth ordered a three-year sentence to be served at the same time as the murder sentence. A charge of possession with intent to distribute heroin was dropped.

McGee, 44, has been addicted for 30 years but understands that drugs could kill him, Wachs said.

"Drugs are readily available in the institution. That is an unfortunate fact," Wachs said.

McGee was found unconscious on the floor of his cell July 21 with 10 packets of heroin, Roessler said.

McGee later told investigators that he had received the heroin from another inmate who had gotten it from a visitor, Roessler said.

McGee was punished administratively for his drug use. He said the infraction got him 30 days in segregation.

"It is difficult to keep all drugs outside the institution," said Len Sipes, a corrections spokesman.

Maryland's record is better than the national average. Of 44,000 inmate drug tests the state Department of Corrections performed in 1996, 2.4 percent were positive. The national average was 9.3 percent. Since then, the department has increased its use of drug dogs, detectives and scanners to check visitors who might smuggle in drugs.

Wachs said his client has had a "difficult life" because of his addiction.

McGee grew up in a comfortable home, attended the private Key School and was heir to a $1 million estate. Since 1976, he has been in jail, on probation or on parole, according to testimony at his trial and sentencing.

Pub Date: 3/20/98

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