Severn teen found guilty of murder for 2004 shooting

Switzer fired into car at random, killing driver

July 26, 2005|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A Severn teenager was convicted yesterday of first-degree murder and other charges in what a judge called the "random, sniper-style" fatal shooting of a passing motorist as well as firing into another car, which sent pellets whizzing past two women.

Anne Arundel County prosecutors will seek a sentence of life without parole for Anthony Deyonko Switzer, who was 16 on Aug. 20 when he shot and killed Doray Delonte Jones, 18, of Glen Burnie as Jones drove to his father's nearby home after dark.

In the second incident, one of the women was putting her 9-year-old twins in a car to leave their grandmother's Severn home when a shot was fired into the vehicle.

Switzer, 17, showed no reaction as Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Michael E. Loney announced the verdict before a packed courtroom. Switzer had chosen to be tried without a jury. Several of the youth's relatives wept as they left the courtroom.

"He acted with specific intent to kill, not to scare or to target-shoot," Loney said.

The judge recounted testimony of two of Switzer's friends, who said the teenager told them he "wanted to catch a body" using a shotgun taken during a burglary he admitted to police he was involved in the previous day.

The verdict showed that Loney put no credence in Switzer's claim that, despite aiming a loaded weapon, he did not intend to kill anyone and that the gun accidentally fired. Friends of Switzer had been granted immunity from prosecution in this case in exchange for their testimony.

Assistant State's Attorney Kelly M. Poma said it did not make sense that both times Switzer, known as "Little Ant," pointed a loaded weapon, it went off accidentally.

"After this happens the second time, it's hard to believe," she said, explaining that Switzer fired at the women because he did not know whether he'd hit Jones - the slain motorist - and did not want to go home without shooting somebody.

David Schertler, Switzer's lawyer, had depicted his client as having been encouraged by slightly older friends who lied about their participation and conspired to lay the blame on Switzer. He said Switzer's family took the verdict "very hard" and that he will look into "what options Mr. Switzer has."

Loney convicted Switzer, who was about to begin 11th grade at Old Mill High School when he was arrested, of first-degree murder in Jones' death on Carriage Drive in Severn. Switzer was also convicted of two counts of attempted first-degree murder for firing an hour later at Kendra Tate and Rubye Roach as Tate was putting her twins in the car on Heather Mist Drive.

The judge found Switzer not guilty of the attempted murder of the 9-year-old girls because, Loney said, there was no evidence that Switzer knew the youngsters were there.

Wearing a T-shirt displaying his slain son's photo, Gerald Jones said he was pleased about Switzer's conviction but said it offered little consolation for a devastating loss. He and Tate expressed disappointment that no charges were lodged against Switzer's friends who prosecutors said had various roles in the burglary, as well as getting ammunition, loading the gun and choosing targets.

Jones said Switzer "deserves" a no-parole life term when sentenced Sept. 15. He said Switzer's father offered condolences and briefly mentioned having difficulties with Switzer.

Poma said that prosecutors did not charge the other youths, ages - Terry Cooks Jr. and Marshall Hall, then 18, and Anthony Wright, then 17 - because it would have compromised the case against the shooter.

Cooks is scheduled to be tried in January in the unrelated fatal shooting of a jogger in April 2004. Police have said Switzer, while being questioned last year, told them Cooks fatally shot jogger David Brown, and implicated Hall in a suspected homicide that is under investigation.

According to four days of testimony by prosecution witnesses, Hall concocted the plan to burglarize the home Aug. 19 because he knew it contained guns, and the group decided to buy ammunition the next day from Bass Pro Shops at Arundel Mills.

Switzer fired at the first car, unaware he killed Jones, who was struck in the head and the back. At Hall's urging, prosecutors said, he went to the home of Hall's ex-girlfriend to shoot, but nobody answered, and then to the home of a neighbor, who didn't answer but called police. An officer was speaking to that woman when a shot was fired into Tate's car. Switzer was arrested days later.

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