Man accused of sexually assaulting, killing boy is spared the death penalty

March 13, 2001|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

FREDERICK - The man accused of sexually assaulting and killing 9-year-old Christopher Ausherman here in November will not face the death penalty if convicted, the Frederick County state's attorney announced yesterday.

Scott L. Rolle, the county's top prosecutor, said he has reluctantly concluded that Elmer Spencer Jr. is ineligible for the death penalty because he is retarded. Maryland law prohibits executing mentally disabled defendants.

"I have always believed that when a person is found guilty of sexually assaulting and murdering someone, that person deserves the death penalty," Rolle said during a news conference at the courthouse here. "The law simply does not allow it."

Rolle said he will seek life in prison without parole when Spencer goes on trial May 29 in Circuit Court.

Christopher's death Nov. 19 inflamed the Frederick community, and the victim's family and others urged that the death penalty be pursued. Police said Spencer, just released from prison after serving time for an assault charge, befriended the boy by buying him Pokemon cards at a nearby convenience store, then assaulted and strangled him in a baseball dugout.

Spencer, 45, has a long history of violent and sexual offenses and has been in and out of state institutions and prisons since his youth. State law bars executing anyone whose IQ was below 70 by age 22 and who demonstrates inability to adapt his behavior to get along in society.

Rolle said psychologists who evaluated Spencer during his previous arrests measured his IQ between 47 and 60.

David Schretlen, a forensic psychologist at the Johns Hopkins University medical school, also reviewed those earlier assessments of Spencer and concluded that his behavior meets the law's definition of retarded, the prosecutor said.

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