Killer given death penalty Metheny describes murder of woman in graphic detail

'I just enjoyed it'

November 14, 1998|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County jury sentenced convicted killer Joseph R. Metheny to death yesterday after hearing his chilling plea for the death penalty, in which he described his murder of a city prostitute in graphic language.

"The words 'I'm sorry' will never come out, for they would be a lie," Metheny, 43, told a still Towson courtroom. "I am more than willing to give up my life for what I have done, to have God judge me and send [me] to hell for eternity."

After hearing Metheny say he killed because "I just enjoyed it," the jury deliberated just over two hours and sentenced him to die for strangling Cathy Ann Magaziner in 1994. Her decapitated skeleton was recovered by police near the pallet company in Southwest Baltimore where Metheny worked.

A large man with two tiny tattoos in the shape of teardrops on his cheek, Metheny, in blue jeans and a sport shirt, showed no reaction to the sentence.

Just before deputy sheriffs led him away, Metheny lightly kissed the cheek of his lawyer, Margaret Mead. When he was gone, Mead and co-counsel Catherine Flynn put their heads on the trial table and cried.

His lawyers said Metheny's statement to the jury belies his feelings of guilt and self-hatred.

They also questioned the "aggravating" circumstance of robbery that legally qualified Metheny for the death penalty. They argued that although Metheny buried Magaziner's clothing and purse after the murder, his taking of the clothing was not part of the crime.

Nevertheless, his lawyers said, Metheny "got what he wanted."

City Assistant State's Attorney Emanuel Brown, who, with co-counsel Vickie Wash, sought the death penalty, said, "This is an extraordinary situation which called for an extraordinary measure."

The jury foreman declined to comment after the sentence was read.

The case was moved from Baltimore -- where Metheny killed Magaziner -- to the county and was tried in the courtroom of Circuit Judge James T. Smith Jr.

Metheny is serving life without parole for the 1996 murder of Kimberly Spicer, and 50 years for an attempted sex offense and the kidnapping of Rita Kemper, also in 1996.

Acquitted in 1996

He was acquitted in 1996 on charges of murdering two homeless men but yesterday repeated his claims that he killed them and others, although he has never been charged.

"They were the poor souls that fell asleep around me that I killed with an ax for $19.20," he said of the two men killed in a makeshift camp in South Baltimore. "I was found 'not guilty' because they could not prove it was me. The state got me the best lawyer you can get. I lied my way through it."

He also claimed to have killed several other men and women, saying that "three of these people were never mentioned because they were never found. They are in the Patapsco River."

Baltimore police have been unable to confirm Metheny's claims to have committed murders for which he has not been charged. Last year, city prosecutors dropped for lack of evidence charges against Metheny in the killing of another woman.

Much of Metheny's statement to the jury was laced with profanity and shocking sexual descriptions of what he did to some of his victims.

The sentencing hearing was as unusual for the details of Magaziner's murder as it was for the absence of statements -- or appearances in the courtroom -- from Metheny's relatives or relatives of the victim.

In closing statements, Wash repeatedly reminded the jury that even though they heard nothing from the relatives of Magaziner -- a prostitute and drug addict -- they should not take her murder lightly.

"Her life is equal to any other member of society. He took everything that woman had, which was next to nothing to begin with," said Wash.

Prosecutors portrayed Metheny as a man who is so dangerous and threatening -- even in prison -- that, in Wash's words, "he will continue to hurt other people, and we cannot afford to take that chance."

The defense described Metheny's childhood as one of neglect, with an absent, alcoholic father and a mother who worked double shifts to support her six children in Essex.

Childhood described

Donald Steil, who investigated Metheny's background for the public defender's office, told the jury that Metheny's family described him as a cowardly, overweight boy whom "nobody seemed to have enough time for was never mean, was always willing to please." He never appeared to have friends, Steil said.

When Mead addressed the jury on Metheny's behalf, she all but ignored his plea for death, telling the jury, "This is not a man without a conscience. This is not a cruel, horrible killer."

Brown had the final say as the prosecutor. "Don't give [the death penalty] to him because he wants it, but because he has earned it, deserves it," he told the jury.

Pub Date: 11/14/98

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