Two men convicted in county woman's death

Her husband was target of robbery, murder plot

October 05, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

After nearly 14 hours of deliberation over three days, a Baltimore County jury convicted two men yesterday in the murder of a Randallstown woman whose husband had been the target of a failed robbery and murder plot.

Shawn E. Gardner, 26, of Chase and Aaron D. Holly, 19, of Catonsville both were found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and a handgun charge for the June 2002 shooting of Tanya Jones-Spence. Jurors acquitted the men on armed robbery charges.

Friends of Jones-Spence, a 28-year-old mother of two, wept in the courtroom and whispered prayers of thanks as the verdicts were read about 5:30 p.m.

"Sometimes the justice system fails people, and I was hoping Tanya wasn't going to be one of those people," said La Donna Simms, 29, of Pikesville, who grew up with Jones-Spence and had been her friend for 16 years.

Simms described the last few days as "shaky" while the eight women and four men of the jury weighed the evidence against Gardner and Holly. Jurors deliberated from about 6:30 p.m. Friday until 12:20 a.m. Saturday and returned yesterday morning.

"I am so relieved," Simms said. "Now we don't got to worry about them killing nobody else's parents. If they could do this to an innocent person, they could do it to anybody."

Prosecutors and witnesses told jurors during the nine-day trial that Jones-Spence's death was the unintended result of a plan to rob and kill her husband, Darius Spence.

After the woman tumbled from the balcony of the couple's Randallstown apartment during the attempted robbery, Gardner and Holly found her huddled under an overhang, where she was trying to crawl to safety and warn children playing nearby, witnesses testified.

"She was waving to the kids to run, and they executed her," prosecutor Rachel Cogen said in an interview after the verdicts were announced.

The two men were arrested several minutes after the shooting within blocks of the apartment complex in the 8600 block of Bramble Lane. Investigators testified that they spent two weeks combing the wooded area that the suspects were seen leaving. There they found Jones-Spence's cellular telephone, latex gloves and two guns, including the .357 revolver used to shoot her.

But defense attorneys argued that the facts didn't add up, and the criticized the testimony of the admitted mastermind of the plot -- William Montgomery, 24, a convicted murderer who negotiated an immunity deal with federal prosecutors in return for a promise to provide information about crimes, including the Randallstown homicide, according to testimony.

Gardner and Holly could receive sentences of life in prison.

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