Woman gets life term in death of husband

Carroll resident found guilty of arranging killing

Regional

January 14, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County woman convicted of arranging the murder of her husband for nearly $100,000 in life insurance money was sentenced to life without parole yesterday.

Melissa Lynn Baumgardner Shipley, 33, showed no emotion as Carroll County Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. sentenced her to two life terms - one without possibility of parole - for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the Nov. 15, 2002, shooting death of her husband, Scott Shipley.

Last year, Butchie Stemple Jr. admitted to police that he killed Shipley but said he did it on orders from Melissa Shipley.

In explaining his decision, Burns said, "If Melissa Shipley did not pull the trigger that killed Scott, she certainly set everything in motion."

Burns also sentenced her to 25 years on related forgery and theft charges.

The parents of the slain man cried and embraced friends and family members as the judge read his decision.

Burns noted the impact of Scott Shipley's death on his infant son, Carter, who was born about four months after his father was killed. A custody battle between both sets of grandparents in May resulted in temporary custody being granted to Brenda and Raymond Shipley, Scott Shipley's parents.

"Carter Shipley is being raised by his paternal grandparents," Burns said. "He will never know his father, and that is because of what his mother did to his father."

Before Burns read his decision, Brenda Shipley issued a statement to the court.

"To lose a child is one of the hardest things a mother can endure in a lifetime. Especially because Scott was murdered by his wife, someone we accepted as part of our family," Brenda Shipley said. " ... My family hasn't been able to grieve for Scott. After today, maybe we can."

Melissa Shipley asked the judge yesterday for a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

"I face a long time in prison," she told the court. "I'm asking you for a chance to prove to you I can be a better person."

In an interview after the sentencing, defense attorney David P. Henninger said he would file a motion for a new trial within 10 days. He said that letters allegedly written by Stemple and another inmate could show his client's innocence.

"If these letters can be corroborated, the state's key witness [Stemple] lied in his testimony," Henninger said. His client "saw these letters today for the first time. She's certainly encouraged. At least she has hope."

The state's attorney office would not comment on the letters. Henninger said the letters needed further investigation.

David P. Daggett, the county's senior assistant state's attorney, added little to statements given by Scott Shipley's parents.

"In all the years I've been a prosecutor," he said, "I have never seen anybody as heartless, manipulative and evil as Melissa Shipley is."

Although he said he was pleased with the sentence, Daggett later said, "It still feels hollow because you look at Brenda and Ray and they will never be whole again."

Melissa Shipley, of the north county community of Silver Run, was arrested and charged with murder Nov. 26, 2002, 11 days after her husband's body was found at the Westminster trucking company where he worked. She was five months pregnant at the time.

Stemple, 29, of Taneytown, was charged after investigators found a handgun, later determined to be the murder weapon, in his toolbox. Stemple pleaded guilty in May to charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy and agreed to testify against Melissa Shipley.

Stemple is now serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

After Melissa Shipley's sentencing, Raymond Shipley said taking care of their grandson helps him and his wife deal with their son's death.

"It fills some of the gap," he said.

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