Man convicted of murder in beating, fire death

February 08, 2005|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A Northwest Baltimore man was convicted yesterday of first-degree murder for beating and then setting fire to a 43-year-old intoxicated man who in September 2003 had apparently stumbled into the wrong back yard.

But Dwayne Gibson, 20, has pleaded not criminally responsible in the death of Wayne Rideout, so today a city circuit judge will hold a hearing to determine whether any psychological ailments made Gibson incapable of understanding the crime.

Assistant State's Attorney Wesley Adams said yesterday during his closing argument that Rideout perhaps had been trying to visit his pastor - one house over - when Gibson, who had been sleeping on the back porch of his grandmother's Grantley Avenue home, attacked him with a crowbar, doused him with gasoline and set him ablaze. The two men had never met, Adams said, but both had been drinking alcohol.

Gibson was quickly arrested, and he admitted to the killing telling police that Rideout had been trying to break into his grandmother's home, Adams said. The attack occurred about 10 p.m. Sept. 28, 2003. But the prosecutor said yesterday that there was no evidence of a burglary attempt.

Rideout died "for the simple transgression of stumbling into that yard," he said.

In his closing statement, Public Defender Jerome LaCorte said that there were too many unanswered questions - such as, "Why was Rideout in the Gibsons' fenced-in back yard?" and "Why was Rideout not wearing a shirt or shoes?" - to convict Gibson of first-degree murder, which requires premeditation. Jurors were asked to consider whether Gibson was guilty of first- or second-degree murder.

"The death of this man may have been horrible, but that doesn't make it first-degree murder," LaCorte said.

Gibson chose to separate his trial into two phases. In the first, which ended yesterday, a jury considered only his guilt or innocence. And in the second, which begins today, Judge Wanda K. Heard will determine whether he is criminally responsible. Gibson also was convicted of two weapons charges.

If Heard finds him not criminally responsible, Gibson would be confined to a state mental hospital.

Otherwise, Gibson could be sentenced to up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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