Teenager gets 55 years in 2006 shooting death

Howard boy was 15 when he killed man

May 30, 2008|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,Sun reporter

A judge sentenced a Howard County teenager who was tried as an adult to 55 years in prison for the shooting death of a man at a Columbia housing complex in August 2006.

Circuit Judge Louis A. Becker said he considered Monti Mantrice Fleming's age - he is 17, and was 15 at the time of the shooting - and said that "given his youth, he's still a work in progress."

But Becker described Fleming's actions in killing 18-year-old Shawn Powell as "barbaric, brutal and malicious behavior."

"We have in this case a trilogy of aspects we see all too often in our society - we have youth, drugs and handguns," the judge said, noting that Fleming had admitted regularly abusing drugs, alcohol and Ecstasy. "He's demonstrated in his short life that he simply will not obey the laws of this state."

FOR THE RECORD - In an article about the sentencing of Howard County teenager Monti Mantrice Fleming for first-degree murder that appeared in yesterday's editions of The Sun, the first name of Ru Sellars was misspelled.
The Sun regrets the error.

In the courtroom, Ruth Sellars, Powell's former roommate, tightly gripped a friend's hand as the judge delivered the sentence.

"Maybe Shawn can rest now," Sellars said outside the courtroom later.

In January, a jury convicted Fleming of first-degree murder, first-degree assault and weapons charges. According to prosecutors, Fleming confronted Powell in a courtyard of the Barnside condo complex in Columbia about 11:30 p.m. Aug. 26, 2006, and the two began to argue. Powell walked away, but Fleming followed and hit him in the head with a liquor bottle, they said.

Powell again tried to walk off and Fleming followed, prosecutors said. Fleming pulled a .38-caliber handgun from his pocket and fired six shots at Powell, who had started to run away. One bullet hit Powell in the back, and he collapsed in a yard. His dead body was discovered the next day.

"He did what most parents ask their children to do when there's conflict - he turned and walked away," said Howard County Deputy State's Attorney Mary Murphy.

Becker sentenced Fleming to life in prison with all but 50 years suspended. He also sentenced the teen to 20 years with all but five suspended for one of the weapons convictions. He merged the sentences for the remaining charges with the murder sentence, and ordered five years of probation upon release. Under Maryland law, Fleming must serve half of the sentence before he would be eligible for parole.

Fleming also is charged with attempted murder in connection with an incident in Columbia four days before Powell's death and an armed robbery that took place three days after. Prosecutors say Fleming used the same gun in all three crimes.

Becker said Fleming has had more than 10 contacts with the juvenile justice system, three of which involved assaults.

Fleming's attorney, Joseph Murtha, pleaded with the judge to have "mercy" on his client, arguing that Fleming can be rehabilitated. "I believe that there is a reason ... not to dispose of Monti Fleming," Murtha said. "I've watched him change in his demeanor, in his intellect. I don't think any of us are in a position to say he may not change."

Prosecutors, who recommended the maximum sentence of life without parole, countered that Fleming has no regard for human life, as well as a history with the juvenile justice system that began when he was 12.

"This was a cold-blooded, premeditated murder," Murphy said. "What we have here is a chance that's been long gone. ... When he is not in a structured environment, look what happens. He creates havoc."

In his comments to the judge, Fleming neither acknowledged that he had committed the crime nor apologized to Powell's family.

"I'm not a monster," he said. "I'm not violent. ... I'm 17 years old, and I think I do deserve a chance to be back in society. I haven't even lived life yet."

His mother, Katrina Smith, sobbed as she told the judge about her son's positive qualities.

"He's not this person they make him out to be," Smith said. "I watched him gather in the community with the kids. All the kids love him.

"I got trophies of my baby playing basketball, football."

In a victim impact statement read aloud by the prosecutor, Ray Powell explained how his younger brother's death has devastated him and his uncle, who became Ray and Shawn Powell's guardian after their mother died in a car crash in 1997 and their father died a year later of liver disease.

"My life has changed dramatically," Murphy read. "I have a son who will never know his uncle.

"I don't care about who else dies in this world now. I lost my mother, father and brother [over] something that was so dumb, not even God can sort it out."

In Sellars' written statement, also read by Murphy, she described Powell as "someone who selflessly brought sunshine in my life."

"Shawn did the right thing and lost his life for it," Murphy read.

tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com

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