Guard at seniors complex pleads guilty to smothering woman, gets life sentence

August 06, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

After failing to get his 15-page confession dismissed as evidence, a 29-year-old former Wells Fargo security guard pleaded guilty yesterday to smothering an East Baltimore woman at the senior citizens complex where he worked.

Thomas Wyatt Campbell, who arranged stuffed animals around the body of 59-year-old Edith Akins after killing her in December, was given a life sentence. All but 50 years was suspended by Circuit Judge Gary I. Strausberg, who refused a defense request to throw out Campbell's confession.

XTC "He [eavesdropped] on a conversation her and I had about me being lonely. He heard her consoling me and then he started coming around," said Viada Cousins, a friend and neighbor of Akins.

Investigators said that Campbell, who lived in the 2400 block of E. Madison St., killed the widow in her living room by stuffing a dish rag in her mouth and tying her hands in front of her face. He then carried her partially nude body to her bed, placed a pillow under her head, arranged toy animals around her and tied her feet together. Police found no signs of sexual assault.

"Campbell was on duty in uniform when he knocked on her door and she let him in," said Assistant State's Attorney Cassandra L. Costley. "In his confession, he never explained a motive."

At the sentencing yesterday, Strausberg recommended that Campbell be considered for incarceration at Patuxent Institution, the state prison for mentally ill offenders. Although Campbell, who has a 10th-grade education, was found competent to stand trial, Strausberg said the rather befuddled way the killer answered questions on the stand yesterday led him to believe that he could be impaired.

Yesterday's hearing was attended by six of Akins' siblings and several friends. She had no children but had 25 nieces and nephews and 45 grandnieces and grandnephews.

A member of Mount Zion Apostolic Faith Church on Liberty Heights Avenue, Akin was known to be a good neighbor at Johnston Square Apartments at 501 E. Preston St. where she lived.

"She cooked for the older people, made sure they took their medicine and went to the market for them," said Linda Gulliver, one of Akins' sisters. "We have lost something that can never be replaced."

Said nephew Leonard Long: "She was a peacemaker who told people to pray. When there was trouble, she'd say: 'I plead the blood of Jesus against the devil.' "

With approval of the governor, Campbell could be eligible for parole in 25 years.

Pub Date: 8/06/98

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