Youth acquitted in Dec. homicide

Restaurant manager was beaten, stabbed, robbed in Hunt Valley

September 02, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A 17-year-old who worked at the Burger King in Hunt Valley was acquitted early yesterday by a Baltimore County jury in the killing of the restaurant's manager two days before Christmas.

William Frederick Jones of Baltimore was acquitted of felony murder despite a taped confession in which Jones said he let three assailants into the restaurant shortly after 11 p.m. Dec. 23.

The jury of nine women and three men also acquitted Jones of robbery but found him guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery after seven hours of deliberations that ended at 12:30 a.m.

James W. Stambaugh Jr., 21, of Towson was found stabbed and beaten to death Christmas Eve morning at the Burger King in the 11300 block of York Road. About $2,800 and the victim's car were taken in the robbery.

Jones is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center pending sentencing by Judge Alexander Wright Jr., who presided over the weeklong trial.

Three other teen-agers also have been charged with first-degree murder in the killing: Courtney Darnell Bryant, 19, Andre Lamont Lawson, 18, and Breon Carlo English, 16, all of Baltimore.

English pleaded guilty to felony murder before Wright May 3. His sentencing is pending.

Lawson is scheduled to be tried Sept. 19, and Bryant will face the death penalty when he is tried Dec. 4, said Assistant State's Attorney Marsha Russell.

Jones told police that Bryant asked him a few nights before the killing to let the three defendants into the restaurant, and that he agreed to do so for $200, according to police testimony.

Bryant had been fired from the restaurant for failing to show up for assigned shifts, David C. Patrick, another Burger King manager, testified.

But in testimony last week, Jones said that the three other teen-agers slipped in behind him as he held open the door, and that he fled before Stambaugh was killed.

He testified that he initially lied to police and told them he knew nothing about the crime because he was afraid of Bryant. The youth said that a week later, he gave police a series of different stories because he felt pressured by Detective Gary Childs.

"I was just making up different stories cause he kept pressing it," Jones told the jurors. "That's what he wanted to hear."

Assistant Public Defender F. Spencer Gordon, Jones' lawyer, said his client was "a coward" who could be easily manipulated.

But in four hours of testimony, Jones seemed neither intimidated nor sorrowful about Stambaugh's death. He was told three times to speak up and had no explanation for why he failed to call police that night. "I just didn't think of calling anybody," he said.

Assistant State's Attorney Mickey Norman told jurors that Jones' taped statement to police included details about the homicide that only someone present for it would have known. Those details included the fact that Stambaugh was attacked in a back office and fell against a bread rack during the assault, Norman said.

The prosecutor also reminded the jury in closing arguments that the killing occurred two days before Christmas.

"Jimmy Stambaugh did not have last Christmas with his family," Norman said. "He will not have next Christmas. and he will never have another Christmas because of what this defendant did."

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