Man sentenced to 10 years in Columbia carjacking

October 18, 2003|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

A 20-year-old Laurel man was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison for his role in a Columbia carjacking this year -- a crime his attorney said was spurred by fallout from the man's decision to illegally immigrate to the United States.

Henry A. Maroquin of the 900 block of Park Ave. owed $5,000 to a man who promised to help him emigrate from El Salvador and later threatened his mother to force repayment, said Michael Walls, Maroquin's attorney.

Maroquin initially planned only to take Evita Latouche's purse in the Safeway parking lot in the Harper's Choice Village Center on Jan. 20, but his co-defendant, Walter A. Torres, put a knife to the throat of Latouche's preteen daughter and "the act of the robbery quickly turned into something else," Walls said.

"He was acting out of the desperation that he had," Walls said. He asked Howard Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure to impose a shorter term. It was "clearly a purse snatching, if you will, gone bad."

But Leasure noted the "sheer fright and terror" Latouche and her daughter felt. In a victim impact statement, Latouche said the experience has left her "skeptical of strangers approaching me for any reason."

"The facts of this case are chilling," Leasure said before imposing a 15-year sentence with all but 10 years suspended and five years' probation for the armed carjacking conviction.

Leasure ordered the same sentence for Torres on Tuesday. Both men face deportation once they serve their prison terms, their attorneys said.

The men pushed Latouche and her daughter, Terrika Martin, into their car in the parking lot. But as Maroquin and Torres prepared to drive off, Latouche noticed that the back doors were unlocked and jumped from the car with her daughter, prosecutors said.

The two men were arrested after a chase that reached 110 mph.

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