Union Bridge man pleads guilty to manslaughter in death caused by fistfight

State's attorney to request 10-year sentence Nov. 8

August 24, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A Union Bridge man pleaded guilty yesterday to voluntary manslaughter in the case of a fistfight on Feb. 26 that led to the death one day later of Jack Austin White, 47, of Westminster.

Wayne Anthony Wimsett, 39, had been indicted on a charge of first-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge before Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr.

In court yesterday, Wimsett waived his right to a jury or court trial in making his plea, and will be sentenced Nov. 8.

The state agreed to the arrangement but is requesting the maximum 10-year sentence, said Jerome J. Joyce, assistant state's attorney.

Joyce noted that under Maryland law, anyone convicted of a violent crime must serve at least half of the sentence before being granted parole, meaning that with good behavior, Wimsett could be released after five years.

"We think that serving five years for taking someone's life is on the light side," Joyce said.

Karyl White, the victim's widow, sobbed quietly in court while Joyce recounted the facts in the case, including the severe head trauma that a state medical examiner ruled as the cause of her husband's death. She said her husband, whose friends called Jake, was known to Wimsett and other men who hung out near the railroad tracks near Center Street to talk and drink.

"He knew Jake was too sick to take a beating like that," said White, who lives on East Main Street in Westminster.

She said she had been informed before yesterday's hearing that Wimsett was expected to plead guilty, and that the state would ask for the maximum sentence. She and her husband's best friend, Lynn Diffenbaucher, said they want to see Wimsett serve no less than 10 years.

"There's no amount of time they could give him that would bring my husband back," she said.

Joyce said the state sought the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter because both men were "engaging in a mutual fray." Wimsett also sustained some injury from the fight, Joyce said.

But Wimsett, he said, admitted to punching and hitting White multiple times after he had him on the ground, and being so immersed in the fight that he became enraged and lost control. According to the police report, Wimsett told officers that he wanted to kill White at that point.

"They were fighting, and he took it beyond what was at all reasonable," Joyce said.

Judson K. Larrimore, Wimsett's lawyer, said White was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.30 -- three times the legal threshold for intoxication -- at the time of his death. Larrimore told Burns that White's high alcohol level may have combined with the blows he received to cause his death.

Larrimore also noted that his client and White walked away from the scene of the fight Feb. 26. White died a day later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 8/24/99

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