5 sentenced in Pigtown barmaid's murder

Two receive 50 years in shooting last year of 35-year-old mother

May 06, 1999|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Theresa E. Ambrose's parents wept, but her daughter refused to listen when the five people who killed the Pigtown barmaid told family members yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court that they were sorry.

"They were all praising about God. If you believe in God, you will not do that stuff," said Crystal Ambrose, 17. "I didn't even listen to it."

All five defendants were sent to prison yesterday for terms ranging from 10 to 50 years. They pleaded guilty in March in the robbery of Rainbow's Pigtown Bar on Feb. 11, 1998, and fatal shooting of Theresa Ambrose, a 35-year-old mother of two who was the only one working at her father's bar.

Judge John C. Themelis sentenced Carleana Kirby, 16, and Carl Brown, 19, to 50 years in prison for felony murder and weapons charges. Brown's twin sister, Carlita, 19, was sent to prison for 40 years for second-degree murder and weapons charges; Lamont Anthony Lewis, 19, for 10 years for conspiracy to commit armed robbery; and Gregory Palmer, 26, for 20 years for attempted armed robbery and a weapons charge.

Before sentencing, all five apologized to the family.

Said Kirby, who fired the fatal shot into Ambrose's neck: "I am sorry. I never meant to hurt anybody. We all make mistakes but this is the biggest mistake I have ever made in my life and I am very sorry."

Kirby's attorney, George A. Epstein, said Kirby was mildly retarded and had suffered physical and sexual abuse since age 6. She was under treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, but ran away from home and stopped taking her medication months before the murder, he said.

"Clearly she needs help," Epstein told Themelis.

Assistant State's Attorney Althea Handy said Kirby was given chances.

"People have tried to help her since she was 6 years old," Handy said, "and she refused that help. She is a dangerous person."

Ambrose was working at the bar at 11: 40 p.m. when three of the defendants entered and demanded money. They asked the barmaid to open the cash register. Ambrose froze, and Kirby shot her.

The other two defendants planned the robbery and acted as lookouts outside the bar.

Ambrose's family has struggled to pay medical bills from the shooting that run to the tens of thousands of dollars.

In May 1998, a crucifix placed in a vacant Pigtown lot to honor Ambrose's memory was toppled by a neighbor, touching off a heated conflict.

Yesterday, family members wore pink pins with "Justice For Terry" on them. Ambrose's mother, Sandra Karasinski, who wept throughout the hearing, said she believed the defendants' apologies were sincere.

"I did not hate those people. I hated what they did," she said outside the courthouse. "You have to forgive to be forgiven."

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