Sentence altered for man who killed wife

Three-judge panel agrees to shorten Washko's term for `rigorous' restrictions

5 years of psychiatric treatment

First year of probation will be under house arrest

May 31, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A mentally disturbed Annapolis-area man who bludgeoned his wife to death in a frenzy last year has had his 10-year prison sentence shortened to eight years but topped with house arrest, probation and a mandatory five years of psychiatric treatment after he is released.

"What the court did was essentially gain substantial control over him - much more control than the parole commission ever would have exercised - for five more years. It actually could be argued that this is a more rigorous sentence," said James N. Papirmeister, attorney for Stephen John Washko.

Assistant State's Attorney Frank J. Ragione, who had opposed changing the sentence, said the new sentence ordered by a three-judge panel "probably gives a greater measure of protection and assurances to the community" because it will result in little change in prison time but adds five years of court supervision over his treatment.

The Anne Arundel County Circuit Court panel ordered that after Washko completes eight years of his 10-year term, he must spend the first of his five years of probation under house arrest. For the entire supervised probation, he must take psychiatric medications and have weekly therapy.

In trimming two years off the term, the panel expressed disappointment that corrections officials had rejected Washko as a candidate for a Patuxent Institution psychiatric program.

At 45, Washko was considered too old for one of the much-sought-after beds at the maximum-security facility in Jessup. Judge Eugene M. Lerner had recommended him for an evaluation at Patuxent as part of his prison sentence in November, after Washko was portrayed by his defense as mentally unstable and psychotic.

Turned down, Washko returned to court this month to ask the three-judge review panel to cut four years from his sentence in favor of five years of probation so he could obtain more than what he said were inadequate psychiatric services offered at the Western Correctional Institution.

Washko, a hazardous materials facilities manager at the National Institutes of Health who was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Linda Tansill Washko, 43, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in her death. She died Jan. 30, 2001.

He hit her in the head more than a dozen times with a ball-peen hammer in the couple's Bon Haven home, believing she was having an affair and would kill him. Later, he crashed his car into a tractor-trailer, then ran into traffic in a failed suicide attempt. His lawyers said he snapped under stress from caring for sick, elderly parents, his father's death and from marital problems.

The Tansill family strongly objected in court to Washko's bid for less prison time, saying that their agreement to his plea was enough. Yesterday, the family declined to comment.

"The panel is of the opinion that in order to better ensure the safety of the public, and lower the chances of defendant reoffending, the most responsible sentence must include medication and therapy that properly treat" Washko's problems, the panel, led by Judge Pamela L. North, wrote in the ruling filed yesterday.

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