Man gets 20 years in Pikesville kidnapping, robbery

Pair followed woman home, held her at knifepoint in her Jaguar

December 06, 2007|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,Sun reporter

Shirley Sutton was returning home from a morning of errands when she noticed a car behind hers pull off to the side of the road near her Pikesville townhouse.

As the petite grandmother gathered her things from the back seat of her Jaguar, two women grabbed her, squirted pepper spray in her face, threw her against the garage wall and forced her back into her car.

For several minutes, they drove around, holding Sutton at knifepoint until she convinced them that she had neither an ATM card nor a PIN number, and offered the robbers her $25,000 Cartier watch.

Authorities say that at least one of those women was a transvestite -- a man dressed as a woman -- and that he followed Sutton home that afternoon in May 2006 to rob her.

That man, Stephen C. Brown, 24, of Baltimore, was sentenced yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court to 20 years in prison for the kidnapping and armed robbery that the judge who presided over the trial said was more brutal than it had to be.

"The crime committed here is nearly as bad as it gets -- like something out of a movie," Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. said. "They terrorized her and scared her nearly to death."

A jury convicted Brown in September of kidnapping, armed robbery and attempted first-degree burglary. He was acquitted of a handgun charge.

Police linked Brown to the attack after checking area pawnshops for the distinctive watch -- a gold timepiece with two rows of diamonds around the face and a small diamond on the pull-out adjustment dial, court records show.

At Famous Pawn, a shop on Reisterstown Road in Baltimore, county police detectives discovered that Brown -- providing his own Maryland driver's license as identification -- had pawned the watch for $2,000.

The shop's manager told police that the item was brought in by a woman, but he "then corrected himself and said that it looked like a male dressed as a female," according to court records.

Police arrested Brown on June 15, 2006, shortly after he left work at Savings First Mortgage, where the Pikesville High School graduate was employed as a loan officer.

Inside Brown's car, police found a knife similar to the one Sutton said the robbers had. The detectives also found a pair of rubber "breast enhancement inserts," court documents show.

Police later matched Brown's DNA to saliva left on a white washcloth that was smeared with makeup and left behind in Sutton's Jaguar, prosecutor Garret P. Glennon said.

Investigators never found the second robber. Brown refused to provide the person's name to police. And he later told the state agent who completed a pre-sentence investigation that he was not involved with the kidnapping but had lent his car that day to friends whom he was too scared to name, defense attorney Warren Brown said in court.

Cahill, the judge, noted that the case had affected two "lovely" families -- Shirley and William Sutton, who have been married for 52 years and have three children and nine grandchildren, and Aquila and Olivia Brown, who have been married 31 years and raised four children in Pikesville.

Aquila Brown, a pastor who wore his white collar to court, begged Cahill to "pardon" his son, promising to move his entire family out of the state or even the country at the judge's request.

"My son ... he got with the wrong crowd," the minister said as Stephen Brown sobbed. "The enemy crept in unaware."

Turning to the Suttons, Aquila Brown said he has asked God to bless them. "We've probably crossed paths at the Gucci Giant," he told them, using a nickname for a Pikesville grocery.

When Shirley Sutton rose to speak, the 71-year-old woman walked slowly to the prosecutor's table, dabbed her eyes with a tissue and carefully put on her glasses to read a statement.

"To this day, I still am afraid to be alone in my house that I have lived in for 27 years," she said. "I'm always looking over my shoulder with fear in my heart. ... My life is filled with fears, tears and pills to help me sleep."

Glennon, the prosecutor, asked the judge to send Stephen Brown to prison for longer than the 15 to 25 years recommended by state sentencing guidelines.

"Shirley Sutton was targeted," he said. Adding that the robbers obviously noticed the woman's expensive car and jewelry, he said, "She is in her 70s. She is 5-foot-3 and probably weighs 95 pounds soaking wet. ... They saw that and they preyed upon her."

Cahill sentenced the defendant to 30 years in prison for the kidnapping conviction, suspending 10 years of that term. He added a concurrent 10-year sentence for armed robbery and a concurrent three-year term for attempted burglary.


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