Fatal shooting nets 40 years

Glen Burnie resident killed man, 24, in Annapolis in 2007

July 31, 2008|By Karen Shih | Karen Shih,Sun reporter

A Glen Burnie man was sentenced to 40 years in prison yesterday for fatally shooting a man in a crowd outside his girlfriend's Annapolis apartment, resolving the first of four homicides in seven months in the troubled neighborhood.

Tyrone Craig Williams, 39, was given life in prison with all but 35 years suspended after being convicted of first-degree murder in the 2007 death of Cole J. Collins, 24, in front of the Bay Ridge Gardens apartment complex.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Michael E. Loney sentenced Williams to five years for use of a handgun in a violent crime, to be served consecutively, and five years for firearm possession with a felony conviction, to be served concurrently. The sentencing had been postponed from May because Williams fired his attorney and arrived at the hearing without a lawyer.

"The message that this case sends is that the community should not and cannot tolerate this kind of behavior," Loney said. "Families have lost a loved one on both sides of the aisle." More than 50 friends and relatives of the victim attended the sentencing, which had to be moved to a larger courtroom to accommodate the crowd. They brought posters signed by many members of their more than 400-member family, including Collins' 4-year-old daughter.

Iris Crankfield, a cousin of Collins who spoke for the family, said she was pleased with the sentence but added, "No amount of time replaces Cole's life. ... All we can try to do is pick up the pieces."

According to charging documents, witnesses said that Williams walked up to a group of people standing in front of 5 Marcs Court about 3 a.m. July 21 and told them he was going to "smack everybody up for beating up [his 17-year-old] cousin."

Witnesses said Collins tried to tell Williams the group was not involved in the fight, but Williams pulled a gun out of his pocket and shot him in the neck. As Williams left, he shot Collins, who was lying on the ground, one more time, witnesses said.

"I never intended to hurt him," he said, crying, to the judge and the victim's family. "I was just coming outside to help my cousin. I wish I could take it back. ... I never meant to hurt this many people."

His lawyer, Elizabeth Palan, repeatedly addressed his history of alcohol abuse - he has been convicted of driving while intoxicated three times since 1995. The night of the shooting, she said, he had been drinking with his girlfriend in her apartment. Williams has also been convicted twice for cocaine possession and distribution.

The approximately 200-unit Bay Ridge Gardens community, which is federally subsidized, is prone to drug-related crimes, said Officer Hal Dalton, an Annapolis police spokesman.

"It's not an average of four murders a year there," he said, referring to separate incidents from the past year, "but they do occur there, more so than if you pick any other neighborhood."

Witness cooperation was strong in this case - a rarity in that area, he said.

In January, in an apparent double homicide, Charles Cully Jr., 29, of Marcs Court, and Cecilia Brown, 51, of Bens Drive were found shot to death in Brown's apartment. No one has been arrested in that case.

Anthony N. Jackson was charged in September with first-degree murder in the death of Andrew E. Johnson of the 1200 block of Graff Court. Jackson will go on trial in September.

Bay Ridge Gardens Community Association President Carol Dessasau was reluctant to rehash the string of crimes, saying that not all of the suspects or victims lived in the apartments.

"Murders have no address," she said. "It doesn't matter what neighborhood you live in."

The community had security guards in place some nights before last year but has since increased the nights that security guards are on duty. Residents are much more aware of their surroundings now, Dessasau said.

karen.shih@baltsun.com

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