Crime Watch

CRIME WATCH

August 23, 2006

Fatal prison stabbing might be capital case

A decision on whether to pursue the death penalty against the two prisoners accused of fatally stabbing a guard in July at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup probably will be made in several weeks, Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said yesterday.

Lee E. Stephens, 27, and Lamarr C. Harris Jr., 35, were indicted on first-degree murder and related charges Friday in the death of correctional officer David McGuinn.

"They both might qualify for the death penalty - if they gave fatal stab wounds," Weathersbee said yesterday. Only the suspected killer can be considered for a death-penalty prosecution, and then only if any of several aggravating factors exist: a prisoner serving a life sentence; the crime occurring in a correctional institution; and the victim being a correctional officer. All three aggravating factors might apply to Harris or both of the accused prisoners, Weathersbee said.

"Our procedure is that we get the police report and meet with the investigators and the attorneys , and of course, the victim's family is consulted. And we meet with the [defense] attorneys to see if they have any mitigating information," he said.

Authorities said that Harris is serving three life sentences, plus time for a weapons violation, for his role in an execution-style murder of two people in a South Baltimore park in August 1989. Stephens is serving a life sentence plus 15 years for the April 1997 murder of a man outside a Salisbury nightclub.

A witness told investigators that he watched Harris stab McGuinn, according to court papers: "The victim was bent forward at the waist with his hands shielding his face. The defendant was raising his arm up and down in a stabbing motion. The witness saw the defendant strike the victim at least three times."

Andrea F. Siegel

Ex-convict admits robberies

A 55-year-old man who was supposed to be living in a halfway house after his release from prison for a bank theft pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to committing a series of bank robberies in Maryland and the District of Columbia, the U.S. attorney's office said. Gerald Alex Bigsby was arrested by federal marshals last month in a Baltimore hotel. He admitted yesterday to seven robberies totaling more than $46,000 in Maryland - including thefts in Silver Spring, Bethesda, White Marsh and downtown Baltimore - between July 21, 2005, and June 28 this year. He used a knife in one robbery, and during others he threatened bank workers with a fake bomb, according to his plea. The plea in U.S. District Court in Baltimore included Bigsby's admission to two robberies of Bank of America branches in Washington for a total of $19,500, federal prosecutors said. Sentencing is set for Sept. 8.

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