Man behind girl's death gets 3 life terms

`You are the most cold-blooded people I have ever seen,' judge tells Richards at sentencing

Baltimore & Region

October 19, 2005|By JENNIFER MCMENAMIN | JENNIFER MCMENAMIN,SUN REPORTER

Jason T. Richards said only two words during his sentencing hearing yesterday.

His attorney offered the briefest of arguments, asking only that the judge keep in mind that Richards played no physical role in the murder he was convicted of plotting and ordering friends to carry out.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Patrick Cavanaugh had much more to say.

"Life means nothing to you or your friends. Without a doubt, you are the most cold-blooded people I have ever seen. You don't deserve to walk the streets with the rest of us," he said yesterday in sentencing Richards to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of a 15-year-old Woodlawn girl who was choked to death and whose body was set on fire last year to keep her from testifying against Richards in a statutory rape case.

As he did this month when sentencing one of Richards' co-defendants, Cavanaugh tacked on as many consecutive prison terms as Maryland law allows for the crimes Richards was convicted of. The judge added a consecutive life sentence for conspiring to kill Quartrina K. Johnson; another consecutive life sentence for conspiring unsuccessfully to kill the girl's 13-year-old foster sister; and an additional 20 years for statutory rape of the foster sister, who was 12 when Richards began having sex with her.

Richards, 25, of Gwynn Oak said nothing during the hearing beyond answering "yes" to two questions and showed no emotion as Cavanaugh announced the sentence with four sheriff's deputies hovering nearby. As he shuffled from the courtroom, handcuffed and shackled, Richards paused at the judge's bench to glare at Cavanaugh.

The sentencing hearing brought to a close a long and complicated case that began in July last year when police and firefighters responding to a call for a small brush fire found the burning body of an unidentified young woman in the woods of Gwynnvale Park in Pikesville.

Detectives Gary Childs and Joseph A. Caskey arrested two suspects within 11 days of Quartrina's death. Authorities spent more than two months looking for Richards and another man before the pair turned up in a remote Northern California town.

Prosecutors said Richards concocted the plan to kill the girls eight days after their foster mother found him in bed with the 13-year-old girl. He ordered three friends - Eric T. "Ock" Watkins, Ogden E. "G-Wizz" Coleman Jr. and Michael X. Shelton - to kill the girls after police issued a warrant charging him with statutory rape.

Coleman and Watkins attacked Quartrina on July 19, 2004, at a city school building, choking her and hitting her with a board, according to testimony. The younger girl escaped after the men struggled with Quartrina.

When defense attorney Mark Van Bavel asked the judge to consider that Richards "took no physical action" in the case, Cavanaugh interrupted him, saying, "Did somebody else have sex with this little girl?"

Calling the case one of the most frightening he has been involved in, prosecutor Allan J. Webster said in court that Richards' intimidation of his codefendants continued as those men went to trial.

One man "shook like a leaf" as he stepped to the witness stand to testify, Webster said, and another was so intimidated by Richards that he claimed not to remember anything about the killing, despite a plea agreement in which he admitted that he beat Quartrina with a board.

"This case has been all about intimidation, all about telling people what to do," Webster told the judge, saying of Richards, "From now on, every day, he will be ordered around by other people. I don't think a sentence could be any more appropriate."

jennifer.mcmenamin@balt sun.com

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