Woman, 20, pleads guilty, gets life in killing of her mother

Victim was stabbed, beaten in their Hampstead home

November 02, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A 20-year-old woman was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty yesterday to stabbing and bludgeoning her mother to death in their Hampstead townhouse in March.

The sentence was met with loud protests and hysterical sobbing from a half-dozen members of the family of Doris A. Ziemski, the 52-year-old victim.

Kristi Lynn Ziemski will be eligible for parole on the first-degree murder conviction in 15 years, said Carroll County Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., referring to a law that took effect Oct. 1.

"The law requires me to advise you that you are eligible to apply for parole in 15 years," Burns told Ziemski, who sobbed softly and sporadically during the 90-minute plea and sentencing.

He also recommended she serve the sentence at Patuxent Institution in Jessup, where she can receive mental health treatment.

Ziemski did not offer any statement, but her attorney, Richard S. Bernhardt, said her remorse was genuine.

Afterward, the victim's family members stood outside the courthouse, vocally decrying the judge's sentence, but declined to comment.

State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes had asked Burns to consider a sentence of life without the possibility of parole because of the vicious circumstances of the March 28 slaying.

Barnes said a fight between mother and daughter began upstairs and ended downstairs where, according to state police and state medical examiners, the victim died of 13 stab wounds from two weapons -- a butcher knife and a bayonet -- and five blows to the head with a piece of a broken table found in the foyer.

Barnes said the victim almost made it out the door, but was dragged back in.

He said the victim's body, covered with a blanket, remained in the house until it was discovered April 8. The defendant used her mother's car and credit cards to buy clothing and meals for her friends, Barnes said.

Burns said he had carefully considered the prosecutor's statement of facts and victim impact statements presented by family and friends, including three sisters of Doris Ziemski: Lisa Kunert, Helen Anderson and Joan Sandlin. They tearfully recounted how their sister had repeatedly tried to help the defendant overcome an addiction to drugs.

The judge said he had weighed the thoughts of those who wanted the defendant to be sentenced for the "rest of her natural life," to "life without parole" or to "straight life."

"Two words come to mind," said Burns. "Those two words are `heroin kills.' They completely summarize what happened in this case on March 28, 1999."

Bernhardt and co-counsel Marta Kahn told Burns they had advised their client against pleading guilty to first-degree murder, believing she might have been found guilty of a lesser charge. Bernhardt noted the defendant's history of drug abuse, saying her friends recalled that she appeared high on drugs when they saw her between March 28 and April 9, when she was arrested at a motel on Pulaski Highway in Baltimore County.

Barnes disagreed, saying the state had a strong case for a first-degree murder conviction.

The prosecutor agreed to proceed with the defendant's guilty plea because "it is virtually impossible that a first-degree murder conviction would ever be disturbed on appeal."

Burns' decision to allow the possibility of parole was fair and "undoubtedly took into consideration her history of drug abuse and addiction and her youthful age," said Barnes.

Bernhardt said it was good that his client was given "some hope for the future."

Kunert said she would never be able to explain to her children that "Kristi killed Granny."

"There's no excuse," Kunert said. "She continually made bad choices. Kristi did this to herself. I will always love her, but I don't think that I can ever forgive her."

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