N. Laurel man convicted of killing 8-month-old girl

Verdict's timing is `sign from God,' mother says

September 20, 2000|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

As she sat in a Howard County courtroom late Monday listening to a jury convict the man accused of killing her baby daughter, Sherri Rippeon took note of the time.

It was 11:30 p.m., and the jury had just returned guilty verdicts against William P. English for second-degree murder, manslaughter and second-degree assault.

Rippeon's 8-month-old daughter, Victoria Rose Dobbin, had died at 11:30 p.m. - 15 months earlier.

"I thought it was just a sign from God," she said yesterday.

A jury took 11 hours Monday to find English, 23, guilty of causing Victoria's death, rejecting a defense argument that English had too little time to commit the crime.

English had been left alone in his Blues Alley apartment in North Laurel with the girl June 2, 1999, while her baby sitter, Marisa Siddell Hannum, then 17, and his mother, Charlotte Lee Miller, went to Weis Markets on All Saints Road. English was Hannum's boyfriend at the time.

About 10 minutes later, he took the unconscious baby to Weis to find Hannum and his mother, according to court testimony.

She died 16 days later, after suffering a subdural hematoma, or hemorrhaging between her skull and brain. The medical examiner's office ruled her death a homicide and said Victoria, who was called Tori, died of blunt trauma.

English told investigators that she fell on her side and hit her head on a toy, according to court papers and testimony.

"Billy English is not a person who could get that upset with a baby in five minutes when he could walk in a room and close the door," defense attorney Louis P. Willemin said during closing arguments.

Instead, Willemin offered an alternate theory. Doctors testified, Willemin said, that the injury could have been caused earlier, and Hannum had been with the child all day.

But prosecutor Thomas W. Rafter, who put a series of medical experts on the witness stand during the weeklong trial, said testimony showed that the girl likely would have lost consciousness immediately. It was English who became frustrated, he said.

Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 9. The most serious of the three charges, second-degree murder, carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Miller, English's mother, testified during the trial that the baby felt warm and was acting sick before she and Hannum left for the store. Yesterday, Miller said she was shocked by the verdict and that her son couldn't have caused Tori's death.

"He didn't intentionally or unintentionally hurt that child," she said.

"Someone else hurt her. Billy's a gentle man."

But Rafter said the jury, in taking 11 hours, worked hard and paid attention to detail.

"There's no winner here," he said.

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