Abeokuto sentenced to life without parole for 2002 killing of girl

May 09, 2007|By Nick Shields | Nick Shields,Sun Reporter

Nearly three years after he was sentenced to die for killing his girlfriend's young daughter, a Baltimore man's life was spared yesterday.

A jury sentenced Jamaal K. Abeokuto, 27, to life in prison with no chance for parole in the kidnapping and stabbing death of his girlfriend's 8-year-old daughter.

He had been sentenced to death in 2004 after being convicted of the crime, but Maryland's highest court reversed the sentence last year when four Court of Appeals judges voted, for two different reasons, to grant him a new sentencing hearing. Prosecutors had again sought the death penalty.

After the verdict was read, prosecutor Joseph I. Cassilly pointed to a line from his closing arguments in the case.

"Anything short of the death penalty is not justice," Cassilly, the state's attorney for Harford County, recalled. "I still feel that way."

Roberto Vaddy, great-grandfather of the victim, Marciana Ringo, said he was disappointed by the sentence, but took some satisfaction knowing that Abeokuto would never leave prison.

"He's going to be thinking about this all his life," Vaddy said. Attempts to obtain comment from defense lawyers were unsuccessful.

In court Monday, Abeokuto had told jurors he was sorry but said he's not sure why he committed the crime.

A Baltimore County Circuit Court jury deliberated for more than 10 hours over two days before reaching its decision just before 3 p.m. yesterday. Earlier in the day, the jury had sent the judge a note asking whether it could request, in connection with a sentence of life without parole, that Abeokuto be required to carry photos or documents connected to the murder.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Patrick Cavanaugh told them they could not.

Maryland law requires judges or juries at capital sentencing hearings to determine whether a defendant is guilty of first-degree murder and whether an aggravating factor to the crime exists, such as the killing of a police officer or a killing committed during a robbery, kidnapping or rape. They must then decide whether the aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors, such as a defendant's youth or troubled upbringing.

The jury listed as mitigating factors Abeokuto's lack of discipline problems while imprisoned, the lack of parental and emotional support he received as a child, his history of depression and the fact that he has an 8-year-old daughter.

Marciana Ringo's frozen, partially snow-covered body was discovered in woods near Joppatowne in Harford County on Dec. 12, 2002, nine days after she disappeared. Her throat had been cut.

The case was moved to Baltimore County from Harford County after Abeokuto requested a change of venue. Abeokuto elected to be tried and sentenced, by a judge.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr. found him guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and other charges, and sentenced him to death.

During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors presented evidence of the crime and argued that a death penalty should again be imposed.

In arguing that Abeokuto's life should be spared, defense attorney Amanda E. Bull told jurors that Abeokuto's mental illness convinced the man that "he needed to kill."

Five men are on Maryland's death row.

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com

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