Fatal shooting of car's driver nets 30 years

August 05, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A teenager was sentenced yesterday to 30 years in prison for killing the driver of the moving car in which he was a passenger - a man he said was as close to him as a "big brother or an uncle" - in a fatal shooting that his lawyer blamed on a mind-bending mix of drugs and cognac.

Ervin Demontray Montague, 18, tearfully apologized to the family of Aaron Kirk Howard, 33, saying, "I pray my words rest on your heart."

Then Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Michael E. Loney sentenced Montague to 25 years for second-degree murder and the minimum five years for use of a handgun in the killing, which occurred April 20 last year on Admiral Drive outside an Annapolis-area condominium complex.

Defense lawyer David Putzi blamed Montague's drug use for a crime he called "inexplicable." He said Montague used Ecstacy, marijuana and cocaine almost daily. The night of the shooting, he said, Montague drank cognac and smoked, for the first time, a marijuana cigarette dipped in PCP. Putzi said Howard gave Montague the PCP, an assertion that prosecutors said was speculation; an autopsy noted PCP in the victim's system.

Putzi said that with Loney's recommendation that Montague be considered for a rehabilitation program at Patuxent Institution, the teen might get the help he needs.

Montague said Howard was "there for me when no one else was, especially when my father was incarcerated." Putzi said the defendant's father was imprisoned for a felony drug conviction and has turned his life around. Psychiatrist Neil Blumberg said Montague's mother struggled to discipline the boy. Montague had minor brushes with the law as a juvenile.

Howard's mother sobbed and slapped the table with her palm as she told the judge of her heartbreak. She said her son was a devoted parent - he had two daughters - who is sorely missed.

"For the sake of all of the mothers and all of the fathers who are burying their children out there ... I have to see justice," Louise Howard said.

Montague, a high school dropout who was 17 at the time of the shooting, moved among his mother's, grandmother's and father's homes, Putzi said. But Assistant State's Attorney Lawrence Caporale said Montague also stayed at hotels, dealt drugs and carried a gun.

At Montague's plea hearing in June, Caporale said the teenager had told a relative that he had beaten Howard with a golf club in a dispute over $200 about a month before the shooting. But nobody could pinpoint a motive for Montague to kill the Crofton man.

Howard was giving Montague and a friend a ride when the teenager shot him. Howard slumped forward, and the car speeded up before crashing into a light pole on Admiral Drive near Bestgate Road shortly after 1 a.m.

Montague and his friend fled; Montague burned his bloodstained clothes, Caporale said. Relatives drove him and his cousin to Philadelphia for a flight to Little Rock, Ark. The pair got a ride to Hot Springs to stay with Montague's cousin. Montague was arrested four days later.

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