Md. agrees to pay $700,000 to mother of murder victim

24-year-old was killed by convict sent to Denver

May 03, 2002|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

State officials have agreed to pay $700,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the mother of a woman who was raped and killed in Colorado by a Maryland convict.

The Maryland attorney general's office agreed to the settlement of the suit stemming from the February 1999 murder of 24-year-old Peyton Tuthill.

She was raped and killed by Donta Paige, a convicted armed robber from Maryland whom a Prince George's County judge sent to a drug treatment program in Denver without notifying Colorado authorities.

The murder garnered extensive publicity in both states and prompted Gov. Parris N. Glendening to write a letter of apology to Colorado Gov. Bill Owens.

The settlement is scheduled to be ratified by the Maryland Board of Public Works Wednesday.

The victim's mother sued in Denver District Court on the grounds that Maryland violated the Interstate Compact for the Supervision of Parolees and Probationers when the judge freed Paige from a Hagerstown prison in late 1998. Paige has since been convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole in Colorado.

The lawsuit was filed by Washington attorney Peter C. Grenier on behalf of Patricia Tuthill, who now lives in Florida.

"I don't think it brings closure, but it certainly helps in funding her victim's rights advocacy," Grenier said. He said Tuthill quit her job with a medical practice and now works full-time on crime issues, testifying before legislatures in support of stronger safeguards in the interstate compact.

Paige was serving a 20-year sentence when Prince George's County Circuit Judge Joseph S. Casula ordered his release so he could enter a drug treatment program in Denver. The convict's mother put him on a bus to Colorado. Four days after his arrival, he dropped out of the program.

Later that day, a Denver jury found last year, Paige broke into a house down the street from the treatment center and raped and stabbed Peyton Tuthill, a graduate student.

Colorado authorities were not notified that a convicted felon was being sent to their state, as required by the compact.

The incident left Maryland corrections officials and the judiciary blaming each other. Chief Judge Robert M. Bell called the case a "failure" on Maryland's part, but said prison authorities were responsible for notifying Colorado. Division of Correction officials said Casula freed Paige without notifying parole and probation personnel.

Michael Morrill, a spokesman for Glendening, said that today Maryland is probably further along in adhering to the compact than any other state. He said corrections officials have sifted by hand through 89,000 cases to make sure the state is in compliance with the agreement.

"Maryland, in part because of this incident, is providing national leadership," Morrill said.

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