Murder victims' fathers testify at Ware sentencing hearing

July 21, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The fathers of two murder victims wept on the witness stand yesterday as they told an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury that will decide whether to execute their daughters' murderer how his crimes shattered their families.

On Monday, the same jury convicted former Navy seaman Darris A. Ware, 28, of first-degree murder in the fatal shootings of his ex-fiancee Betina "Kristi" Gentry, 18, and her friend, Cynthia V. Allen, 22, in the Gentry home in Severn.

The same 10 men and two women turned their attention to sentencing yesterday. The defense will begin its presentation today.

Assistant State's Attorney Thomas J. Pryal told presiding Court of Special Appeals Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. that the victims' relatives do not want a death sentence because they fear it will be more likely to lead to a reversal on appeal.

This is a retrial of a 1995 conviction and death sentence for Ware, erased when the Court of Appeals ruled that prosecutors violated court rules by not sharing information with the defense.

Jurors were not told of the families' sentiments or of the first trial.

Edward L. Gentry told them his daughter was a "daddy's girl," the baby who rejuvenated him after he returned from his Army years in Vietnam, later the teen-ager who telephoned him every morning.

A counselor for Vietnam veterans, he said he cannot get through the pain and grief. When the telephone rings in the morning, he jumps. "A car goes by, I see her. I had an operation, I could feel her holding my hand," he said.

"I was shot," Gentry said. "I was a soldier I never cried." But he wept as he recalled celebrating Kristi's birthday and his, which were five days apart.

According to testimony in the trial, Ware hit Kristi Gentry the morning of Dec. 30, 1993. Her brother, Kevin Gentry, threw him out of the house, only to have Ware point a gun at him. The gun was not loaded.

Ware returned to the Gentry home with ammunition, shooting Gentry as they argued and then Allen as she cowered in a bathroom.

Gentry's screams and some of the gunshots were heard by a friend, a convicted killer who had been on the telephone from prison with Allen when Gentry and Ware's dispute escalated.

"There is so much pain in my heart," said Ramon Vega, Allen's father. "It's like somebody turned the lights off in the house."

He described his daughter as a joy to raise. He said she grew up to be a happy woman who delighted in her own daughters, just as he savored every milestone in his children's lives. "Every time she got paid, she went out and got something for the kids," he said.

Alexis is now 8 and Courtney 11. The younger girl doesn't remember her mother; the older one still cries over the loss.

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