Man, 27, convicted in fatal robbery

2 clerks were killed in 1999 at Aberdeen convenience store

March 22, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A 27-year-old man was convicted yesterday of killing two clerks at an Aberdeen convenience store during a 1999 robbery attempt in a crime that shocked the small Harford County community.

No witnesses saw Waylon Tenoco Wesley commit the murders, and no weapon was recovered.

But Wesley was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, first-degree assault and a handgun violation in the killing of Melissa Pennington, 18, and Nancy Atkinson, 30, on March 1, 1999.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox said she was convicting Wesley based largely on statements he made to an acquaintance that were secretly tape-recorded before his arrest.

"They show knowledge of the circumstances of the robbery. They show guilty knowledge," Cox told a tense courtroom packed with sheriff's deputies.

Wesley showed no emotion as Cox announced her verdict.

Harford County Assistant State's Attorney Vernon Gentile said he will seek a sentence of life without parole when Wesley is sentenced.

Cox tentatively scheduled sentencing for April 9.

In announcing her verdict, Cox said that she was convinced by witnesses who placed Wesley at the Wawa Food Market in the 200 block of N. Philadelphia Road and by statements Wesley made after the killings, including the four hours of taped conversation.

Wesley was indicted by a Harford County grand jury in May 1999. He had been arrested March 21, 1999, on unrelated charges of burglary, robbery, armed robbery and car theft.

He was charged with breaking into a Havre de Grace home with three other people and holding several people at gunpoint before robbing them.

During the eight-day trial, testimony indicated that Wesley confessed to Nicoma Nordine during conversations taped March 11, 1999.

Nordine, 22, agreed to wear a recording device in exchange for the dismissal of charges against him, prosecutors said. Police taped the conversations between Nordine and Wesley as they drove around Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, stopping at Wesley's apartment, at a motel and at a gun shop, to look at weapons, according to testimony.

In rambling conversations, Wesley talked about shooting the victims.

"The first one I hit five times," Wesley is heard saying on the tape. "So the other one probably did try to run."

Cox said she also was convinced of Wesley's guilt by Susan Pino, who testified that Wesley confessed to her when he stopped by her apartment after the killings looking for a place to "chill" for a few days.

"He said he had to hit them off," Pino testified. "I looked at him and said, `You're the one who did that?' He didn't say anything. He just looked at me."

Prosecutors originally sought the death penalty but reversed that decision March 2.

The case was moved to Baltimore County after the defendant asked for a change of venue.

Gentile said yesterday that Wesley still could be tried on the burglary, robbery and theft charges. He said a decision in that case is unlikely until Wesley is sentenced next month for the killings.

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