Man given life term for murder

Earlier case was dropped for tardy trial, leading to reforms in courts

July 03, 1999|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A West Baltimore man whose dismissed murder case in January spurred reforms in the city's courts has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison for another murder he committed while awaiting trial in the first case.

Dontae Spivey, 21, and co-defendant Donnell Harris, 21, were sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years Tuesday for murdering a 17-year-old man in September 1997 and stuffing him in a car trunk.

Spivey was free on bail awaiting trial in the 1995 death of another man when he killed Dameon Travon Burrell. The first case was dismissed last winter when a judge ruled that three years was too long for prosecutors to wait to bring Spivey and three others to trial.

While prosecutors appeal that dismissal, the case has highlighted the breakdown in Baltimore's courts and sparked wide-ranging reforms.

Spivey was arrested in the 1997 case shortly after the body of Burrell, who lived in Reservoir Hill and knew Spivey, was found in the trunk of a car on a secluded street in Roland Park in North Baltimore.

The murder weapon, the keys to Burrell's car and $11,000 worth of cocaine were found within several feet of where Spivey and Harris were stopped while walking on Roland Avenue.

Spivey and Harris were convicted May 7 of first-degree murder and related robbery, use of a handgun in a crime and drug distribution.

According to court records, Spivey has been in and out of trouble. The records, filed by the defense, document that he has been under psychiatric treatment since he was 4. By third grade, he was setting fires, stealing and beating the family dog. As a juvenile, he beat two children and broke a car window, the records say.

"He appears to be repressing a lot of anger," two therapists wrote in 1983. "Play with dolls and army men show a large amount of aggression and a coping mechanism of imagining the victim (obviously the patient himself) being the most powerful person in the world, and capable of killing the aggressors."

Pub Date: 7/03/99

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