Judge denies inmate's request to cut term for '77 murder


An Anne Arundel County judge has denied a request to shorten what a convicted killer claimed was an illegal sentence of life plus 22 years for the 1977 kidnapping and slaying of a teenage girl.

William Clyde Conley contended that the sentence imposed in 1978 by Judge E. Mackall Childs was illegal because the judge incorrectly believed that the only sentence allowable was life in prison.

Lawyer Fred Warren Bennett argued that the judge could have suspended any number of years from a life term, so that Conley would not have to serve them.

In a nine-page opinion issued last month, Judge Joseph P. Manck wrote that there was no evidence that Childs misunderstood the law.

Childs said that the "only legal sentence, I'm told, for murder in the first degree is life imprisonment," but Childs said nothing about shortening the prison sentence.

Conley also argued that his sentence should be trimmed because his brother, Chester, who was also convicted in the crime, had his sentence cut by a different judge to 60 years.

Manck waved off that claim as irrelevant. Chester Conley could be released from prison after serving 40 years.

The brothers - William was then 25 and Chester 27 - were convicted of picking up two teenage girls in Glen Burnie who were hitchhiking home from Harundale Mall after dark March 30, 1977.

Instead of taking the girls to their homes, the brothers kidnapped them.

Dawn Burkman, then 18, jumped from the moving vehicle to avoid a sexual assault. She was left on the roadside and died several days later of head injuries, prosecutors said.

Her friend, then 17, was sexually assaulted but survived.


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