Killer of parents to seek lighter sentence 1987 Harford slayings split family, community

August 28, 1998|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Timothy S. Sherman was 18 when he shotgunned his parents to death in their bed in 1987. The Harford County teen-ager's trial and conviction touched off a firestorm in the county, splitting his family into defenders and critics.

Today, he will ask a Harford County Circuit Court judge to reduce his double life sentence at a hearing expected to reignite emotions in the case, which has dragged through the courts for more than a decade.

"It has been immensely painful," said Irene Sherman, whose son Stevenson T. Sherman, then 34, and daughter-in-law Elizabeth Ann Sherman, 35, were shot to death in their Hickory home. "For 10 1/2 years we have dealt with appeals and charges of unjust treatment, all while dealing with the grief."

Timothy Sherman, now 29, is serving two consecutive life terms in Jessup for the murders. Russell J. White, one of Sherman's lawyers, said his client has admitted his guilt and hopes Judge Cypert O. Whitfill will reduce the sentence today. "I'm sure it is going to be a very emotional hearing," said White, who declined to discuss his client's motive for the shootings.

The October 1987 murders rocked Gibson Estates, a middle-class neighborhood five miles north of Bel Air where the Shermans were a well-liked couple.

Timothy Sherman, then a quiet graduate of C. Milton Wright High School, initially told investigators he was in his room the night of the shootings when he heard a scream and gunshots. He ran to his maternal grandparents' nearby home and police were called.

Investigators found a 12-gauge shotgun near the house, and the teen-ager was quickly charged with the slayings. The deaths polarized the community and even the victims' families, who lived in the same neighborhood.

Sherman insisted he was innocent. His maternal grandparents, William and Erma Gibson, rallied behind him, while the family of Stevenson T. Sherman -- who adopted the boy after marrying the boy's mother -- believed he was responsible.

"We all attended the same church, and it split the church, with people taking sides," said the elder Sherman's sister, Donna Scarborough. "It split the whole community."

The convictions were followed by a decade of hearings and appeals, as defense attorneys sought unsuccessfully to overturn them.

Sherman now admits he committed the crimes. His supporters focus on the changes he has made in his life since entering prison.

Relatives say that the lanky boy who went to jail has matured into a man and a model prisoner -- earning an associate's degree as a legal assistant and becoming an active member of the Jaycees.

"I think there is this wonderful safety net of family and friends that he has which has enabled him to grow," said attorney Stuart J. Robinson, Sherman's uncle, who is among the lawyers representing him. "They are the centerpiece for Timmy, and he has had these achievements and done so well because of that support system."

William Gibson, Sherman's maternal grandfather, declined to comment on Sherman's admission of guilt but said he and his family continue to support his grandson.

"He has done extremely well considering where he was sent to and his age," Gibson said. "I think that we can rehabilitate him to be a productive member of society."

But Scarborough, Stevenson T. Sherman's sister, said the stress of the drawn-out case has hurt her family, and she believes her nephew should remain behind bars.

"I would like the sentence to stay the same," Scarborough said. "Ten years in jail just doesn't equal the value of two wonderful lives."

Pub Date: 8/28/98

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