Woman found guilty of murder in death of her husband

Killing followed discovery of large credit card debt

Anne Arundel

March 16, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A 59-year-old Shady Side woman was found guilty yesterday of first-degree murder for using a rifle to beat and shoot her husband to death over her mounting credit card debt.

It took an Anne Arundel County jury two hours to convict Terry Harriet Pierce Eslin of the most serious charge against her - one that could carry a possible life sentence without the possibility of parole. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

Eslin and her lawyer have maintained that she suffered from battered wife syndrome, was temporarily insane during the attack and therefore is not criminally responsible for killing her fourth husband, Richard P. Eslin, 66, last year.

Prosecutors contended that she planned the brutal attack when her husband found out about some of her $48,000 credit-card debt. Richard Eslin had asked her to move out, and Terry Eslin testified Thursday that she was afraid of being homeless.

Police testified that they found Richard Eslin's body Jan. 17, 2003, at the couple's home on Snug Harbor Road. The body was rolled in bedsheets and wrapped in a blue tarpaulin secured with bungee cords.

The "heinous nature of the crime," said Assistant State's Attorney Laura S. Kiessling, led prosecutors to seek life without parole for the former Home Depot employee. She had been on house arrest and living in Annapolis with her son during the year leading to the trial.

Jurors could have convicted Eslin of the lesser charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter, or they could have convicted her of any of those charges and found her to be not criminally responsible for her actions. If found not criminally responsible, Eslin would have been confined to a state mental hospital until she was declared no threat to society.

"Certainly we would have hoped for something better," said defense attorney James C. Cawood Jr. He added that Eslin had prepared herself for the possibility that she would be returned to jail yesterday. She had been living at her son's home since Judge Martha F. Rasin released her on home detention in February last year.

Immediately after the verdict, prosecutors asked Judge Nancy Davis-Loomis to revoke Eslin's house arrest status and return her to the Anne Arundel County Detention Center near Annapolis. Davis-Loomis imposed no-bond status upon Eslin, and she was taken in handcuffs to the jail.

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