Defense asks jury to spare life of ax murderer

Deliberations begin today on penalty for Winder

May 27, 1999|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

The lawyer for triple ax murderer Eugene E. Winder asked a Baltimore County jury yesterday to spare his client from the death penalty, saying mental illness was the likely reason for Winder's violent killing of his girlfriend and her grandparents.

The jury was to begin deliberations today in the case of Winder, a 25-year-old electrician from Salisbury who admitted in court last week that he killed Christie Lee Mainor and her grandparents, John and Geraldine Mainor, in the small town of Fruitland in Wicomico County in February last year.

In closing arguments yesterday, defense attorney Thomas J. Saunders noted that Winder had been a quiet, hard-working young man with no criminal record when he committed the killings after learning that Christie Mainor had been out with another man.

A week after the deaths, Saunders noted, a psychiatrist diagnosed Winder with a "bi-polar" mental disorder that is "the number one cause" of violence and suicide among mental patients.

In "a single day, a single night, he did something so out of bounds and out of character with what he was," said Saunders. "We need to punish him, but do we need to kill him?"

While Saunders attempted to sway the jury to spare Winder's life, a prosecutor asked jurors to give Winder the death penalty for the grisly killings.

Sampson G. Vincent, Wicomico County Deputy State's Attorney, told the jury during his closing argument that there was no evidence that Winder had any mental incapacity at the time of the killings.

"He took steps to conceal the crime" when he threw away the ax he used in a field near the Mainor home, removed the batteries from the smoke detectors and set the house on fire, said Vincent.

"Why should you extend to this defendant any mercy? What mercy did he extend to Mr. Mainor" or to Christie and her grandmother, who was killed on her 70th birthday with an ax and a hammer.

"He murdered the woman he allegedly loved and wanted to marry and the two people he called Grandma and Grandpa," said Vincent.

Winder admitted to the murders and the arson on May17, the day his trial was to begin, against the advice of his lawyers.

He made an Alford plea, admitting to the killings and arson without pleading guilty, and was convicted by Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II, who sent the case to the jury to decide on penalty.

If the jurors spare his life, they could sentence him to life without parole or life in prison with the possibility of parole. He also could receive 30 years for arson.

Pub Date: 5/27/99

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