One of two men convicted of murder in the stabbing and strangulation of 14-year-old Ashley Nicole Mason nearly two years ago was sentenced to life in prison yesterday, but a Howard Circuit Court judge left open the possibility for the man to one day be released.
Judge Raymond J. Kane chose not to impose the harshest penalty he could have on 23-year-old Frederick James Moore - life without parole - saying he was not "prepared to foreclose" on the possibility that the Baltimore man might one day reform himself.
Kane quietly delivered the sentence, which acknowledged Moore's participation in what he called a "horrible crime," after an emotional plea for justice from Ashley's mother and one for mercy from Moore.
"What happened to Ashley Mason was not my fault. I did not kill Ashley Mason. True, I could have prevented it" but did not, Moore said. He has acknowledged that he was present when the teen was killed behind a Columbia Pizza Hut on Nov. 3, 2000. " ... That, I will have to live with for the rest of my life."
But Ashley's mother called Moore an "evil, cold-hearted person," as she urged Kane to impose life without parole.
"Even locked behind bars, he can still breathe air, see sunlight, watch seasons pass and hear his mother tell him she loves him," Crystal Mason sobbed from the witness stand.
Friends helped a distraught Mason from the courtroom after the sentencing.
"I think if there were ever a crime and a defendant that justified life without parole, it's this one with Frederick Moore," said Assistant State's Attorney Kim Oldham.
Moore's defense attorney, Sheldon Mazelis, said he believes Kane "did the right thing."
"We hope that [Moore] will one day be able to return to society and be able to do something with his life," he said.
Scott Jory Brill, 20, who also was convicted of first-degree murder in Ashley's death, is awaiting sentencing. A hearing in his case is set for Oct. 24.
Moore and Brill were arrested in December 2000, six weeks after the discovery of Ashley's body in woods behind the Pizza Hut at Route 108 and Bendix Road.
During the weeks it took investigators to make an arrest in the case, the slaying of the Long Reach High School freshman sparked community fear.
Ashley had been stabbed 34 times and strangled, according to testimony at the men's trials.