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McKay gets maximum term

30 years for killing follows effort to withdraw plea

July 17, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun Reporter

McKay's past convictions include the embezzlement of more than $200,000 from St. Mary's Seminary in Roland Park. After surviving a house fire in Lansdowne that killed her third husband, McKay faked her own death in 2003 to avoid capture on the embezzlement charges, according to police records. While on the lam, she disguised her appearance and took on a new identity as a former nun, stealing at least $80,000 from an elderly woman in Delaware.

"She has stolen, she has swindled, she has deceived and she has never looked back," said Rogers.

Had North allowed McKay to take back her plea, it would have had a potentially devastating impact on her 20-year-old son, Matthew Haarhoff. He is to enter an Alford plea today, his lawyer said, to one count of being an accessory after the fact, receiving an 18-month suspended sentence that will free him from jail after more than two years awaiting trial.

His plea, however, was contingent on his mother's sticking to her plea agreement. McKay acknowledged the potentially detrimental effect her actions would have on her son, who she said was innocent, but said she should be able to fight her charges without taking into account the effect on others.

"If I'm coming in here before the court, I don't feel I should have to worry about everything else and not have what I need," she said.

Another son, Christopher Haarhoff, pleaded guilty last fall to one count of being an accessory after the fact, telling prosecutors that his mother called him to the home to help dispose of the body and telling him that she killed Fertitta because he discovered she was stealing from him. The 22-year-old received five years in prison.

"If it was a crime to be a bad parent, this would be a classic case," North said. "It's just unbelievable that you would involve a child of yours in this sordid mess that you have created."

"I don't understand how a person so evil can do all of this and show or feel no remorse," said Fertitta's sister, Rose Acton, in a victim impact statement that was read by prosecutors. "I feel as if this woman should never walk the streets of freedom again. However, it upsets me to think that will not happen."

Rogers defended McKay's plea, which North several times described as "very favorable." McKay could have faced 45 years in prison, but prosecutors agreed to let the second-degree murder and theft sentences run concurrently. Rogers said prosecutors believed they could only prove second-degree murder.

McMahon said McKay plans to ask the judge to reconsider the sentence.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

WORDS FROM THE COURTROOM

Cindy McKay

"The court has to be about the truth - you told me I had a right to a trial by jury of my peers. ... It's taken a little longer than many of us have hoped or imagined to get to this point, but the truth is always worth waiting for."

On the time after Fertitta was killed: "At that point, it seemed like all the life out of the whole house left. You don't hear the normal noises. And I was freezing cold - my house wasn't cold but I was freezing cold - and I went and sat on the steps leading up to the bedroom, right on the foyer where Tony was for five hours. I didn't know what to do. I couldn't believe he was dead."

"It doesn't make sense why I did the things that I did afterward. I can't explain them. I don't know why I did it."

Prosecutor Kathleen Rogers, to the judge

"The woman who stands before you today is without rival, the most devious defendant this court will ever come across. One only has to look at the defendant's prior record in the pre-sentence investigation to know the treachery she has reaped over this county and this state. For almost the last 25 years ... she has stolen, she has swindled, she has deceived, and she has never looked back. She has repeatedly gotten in people's good graces to then rob them blind."

"These actions are evidence of a person who is devoid of any redeeming qualities, who is in fact devoid of a conscience."

Judge Pamela L. North, to McKay

"You have this amazing history of dishonesty which seems almost unparalleled when you compare it with other criminal defendants who come into this court. I'm really very impressed by your intelligence - you appear to be very intelligent to me, and that sort of makes all of this even sadder."

"If it was a crime to be a bad parent, this would be a classic case where you would be prosecuted for being a bad parent. It's just unbelievable that you would involve a child of yours in this sordid mess that you have created."

"Frankly, based on your history I have no hope or expectation that you would ever be rehabilitated. I think that regardless of whether you spend years in prison or out on the street, you will be the same person you are now and continue to commit the same types of crimes."

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