Charges against 2nd friend in drug case dropped

Decision follows acquittal of murder in first case

October 04, 2000|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Howard County prosecutors dropped all charges against a 21-year-old man accused of murder in the heroin overdose death of a friend yesterday, one month after they failed to persuade a judge and jury to convict another defendant in the same case.

The decision not to prosecute the second-degree murder, manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges against Wesley Tyson Hamerly came out of talks that followed the acquittal of Scott Milner Sheldon, 22, on the same charges Sept. 1, prosecutors said.

Hamerly is still facing assault charges in an unrelated case in District Court, and State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon said prosecutors are hoping to use that case, which is on today's docket, "to accommodate the state's issues." In that case, which dates to June, Hamerly is accused of assaulting his brother and father.

"We realized there was another outstanding matter that could satisfy some of our concerns with Mr. Hamerly in that we continue him in drug treatment and find a way to require that," she said. "Our goal is that if he has turned around, which we believe he has ... that we maintain that."

She would not elaborate on what will happen in District Court today, but a source familiar with the case said there will likely be a plea. Neither Hamerly nor his attorney, Samuel Truette, would comment after a brief hearing yesterday.

Hamerly, Sheldon and Brian Anthony Jefferson, 25, were indicted on murder charges in December, nine months after the body of Morgan Manca-Wells Jr., 21, was found by a trash bin near St. Agnes HealthCare. The three were accused of failing to help Manca-Wells the night he died of a drug overdose and of tricking the paramedics and officers who showed up at Sheldon's Wolf River Lane house to check a report that two people had overdosed there.

Hamerly allegedly posed as the person in trouble, though Manca-Wells was upstairs in a bathtub, unconscious and struggling to breathe, according to prosecutors and testimony from Sheldon's trial.

At the first trial, Judge James B. Dudley agreed to acquit Sheldon of murder and manslaughter charges after hearing the evidence, noting a lack of relevant Maryland case law. That left the jury to decide one charge - reckless endangerment.

The jurors, who deliberated for more than four hours, couldn't place the blame for Manca-Wells' death on one man's shoulders, said Evelyn Reese, the jury forewoman.

"It seemed like so many other people were involved in the situation who could've taken charge and probably have saved that man's life ... before it even got to [Sheldon]," she said. "It's kind of hard to put all the blame on him."

That left prosecutors with two obstacles in Hamerly's case. The evidence, they said, was weaker than in the Sheldon case. And they would again be facing Dudley, who had decided to acquit on two of three charges after listening to the evidence in that stronger case.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rexroad said prosecutors also talked with jurors to see what kept them from convicting Sheldon of the third charge. He said they found that jurors had trouble believing Sheldon was aware of the risks his actions posed.

McLendon, who tried that case with Rexroad, said her office had to take a close look at the remaining two cases. Jefferson's case is pending, although his attorney, James Kraft, said he is "in discussions" with the state's attorney's office.

"You do always look to judicious use of resources," McLendon said. "It's imprudent for us to think this case would play out more successfully than the other."

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