Witness in murder case gets 15-year term

As part of plea bargain, Shepeta testified for state

October 17, 2001|By Andrea F. Siegel | By Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

David Shepeta, 21, of Glen Burnie was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court for second-degree murder in the February 2000 death of Robert Hightower, who would have turned 20 tomorrow.

The sentence was part of a plea bargain. Shepeta had entered an Alford plea last year, in which he did not admit guilt but acknowledged that sufficient evidence existed to convict him. His testimony against Shane Pardoe helped secure a first-degree murder conviction against him.

Circuit Judge Pamela L. North sentenced Shepeta to 30 years in prison, with half of the time suspended, followed by five years of supervised probation. She recommended a rehabilitation program at Patuxent Institution.

"If this wasn't a binding plea, your sentence would be more harsh than it is," North said.

Shepeta testified in January that Pardoe, 21, had planned to kill Hightower, his Glen Burnie neighbor, while the victim lay sleeping on a couch in Pardoe's apartment after a party there.

Pardoe was convicted of bludgeoning Hightower, 18, to death. One week later, Pardoe and Shepeta were arrested after leading police to Hightower's body in a wooded area about 20 miles from Pardoe's apartment.

Pardoe was sentenced to life in prison with all but 55 years suspended

Outside the courtroom, the fathers of Shepeta and Hightower spoke softly and somberly, patted each other on the shoulder and parted.

As Henry Shepeta Jr. headed for the door of the courthouse, David Hightower said he felt sorry for him. A short time earlier, Shepeta extended sympathy to Hightower.

"I have a great deal of sympathy for them, for the whole family," Hightower said.

"I can barely stand up now," Henry Shepeta said, explaining that he was too devastated to talk about the situation.

Inside the courtroom, David Shepeta, flanked by public defenders, apologized and told North, "For the rest of my life, I will be living with this guilt in the prison of my own mind."

North ordered Shepeta to read a letter written by the victim's mother to the court. Beverly Thomas ended the statement with the words: "May God forgive me because I will never, ever be able to forgive you."

Pardoe has appealed his conviction.

A third person, Corinne Catramados, 20, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to being an accessory to murder after the fact and received a five-year suspended sentence.

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