Man gets life terms in death of boy, 9

Mentally retarded man was diagnosed with schizophrenia, pedophilia

May 01, 2002|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Elmer Spencer Jr., a retarded man convicted of murdering a 9-year-old Frederick boy after luring him with Pokemon cards, was sentenced yesterday to life without the possibility of parole.

Passing sentence at a brief morning hearing, Frederick County Circuit Judge G. Edward Dwyer said Spencer should never again be a free man after the molestation and slaying of Christopher L. Ausherman.

To underscore that, the judge added another life sentence for a first-degree sex offense and 20 years for abducting a child - to be served consecutively. State's Attorney Scott Rolle said no one he knew could recall a longer sentence in county history.

"Unfortunately, this sentence will not bring Christopher Ausherman back," Rolle said. "But it is justice in the sense that Elmer Spencer is being punished for what he did, and the community is getting a sense of security knowing that [he] will never walk the streets again."

Ausherman's mother, Mary Voit, said losing her son 17 months ago "was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life," according to a written statement read aloud by Rolle.

A jury took less than two hours Feb. 20 to find Spencer, 46, guilty on charges of first-degree murder, child abduction and a first-degree sex offense.

Rolle said that while he believed the "heartbreaking" case warranted the death penalty, Maryland law does not allow execution of the mentally retarded. The prosecution's own experts agreed that Spencer met the legal definition of retardation - an IQ below 70 and a history of impaired behavior.

Spencer's lawyer, public defender Franklin Stillrich, said his client appeared to be resigned to his sentence. "It was a heinous crime," Stillrich said. "I think he knew what was going to happen pretty much."

Stillrich told the judge that Spencer, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and pedophilia, was imprisoned for more than 20 years but was never treated for his disorders. He bounced in and out of prison for most of his adult life with a record that included the rape of an 11-year-old boy and two other attacks on children.

Christopher was killed on Nov. 19, 2000, just five days after Spencer was released from prison. He had served 3 1/2 years of a 10-year term for assault.

The slaying prompted two Frederick lawmakers, Democratic Del. Sue Hecht and Republican Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, to sponsor bills to stiffen the penalties for violent sex offenders. Two were signed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening last month. One provides for a sentence of life without parole for repeat violent offenders.

During a three-week trial, prosecutors produced DNA evidence linking Spencer to the crime. At one point, Rolle said, jurors were shown a videotape of Spencer buying Pokemon cards with Christopher at a local convenience store.

When Christopher's bruised body was found in a baseball dugout at McCurdy Field, Pokemon cards were found in his jacket pocket, Rolle said.

Stillrich said he will file an appeal of Spencer's conviction, noting that a defendant in such a case is entitled to at least one round of judicial review.

Voit and the boy's father, Christopher Ausherman Sr., have filed a tort claim with the state treasurer's office, signaling their intention to sue the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for failing to prevent the attack. Department spokesman Leonard Sipes said the agency does not comment on pending lawsuits.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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