'Gut-wrenching' case closes

50-year term imposed in killing of man just before his child's birth

April 10, 2009|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,nick.madigan@baltsun.com

A dutiful son earning minimum wage, Carlos Santay-Carrillo always made sure he mailed some money home to Guatemala for his disabled father, his mother and his three younger siblings.

For Mother's Day last year, he managed to send $100 and promised to get in touch by phone, a potentially crucial call because, at any moment, he was about to become a father for the first time.

"I was there waiting for the call," said the mother, Maria Consuelo Carrillo de Santay. What she did not know, and would learn later to her horror, was that her 19-year-old son had been stabbed to death in a Catonsville gas station, minutes before he was to take his wife to a hospital to deliver their baby.

In an emotionally wrought hearing Thursday in Baltimore County Circuit Court, the man convicted of Santay-Carrillo's killing, Danny Eugene Thompson Jr., 18, was sentenced to 50 years in prison, with a five-year period of supervised probation upon release. Thompson will be eligible for parole in 25 years.

Before she pronounced sentence, Judge Judith C. Ensor paused, her voice cracking, and took a sip of water. She then said the trial had been "gut-wrenching" and had left her with "a certain hopelessness."

"There is nothing, quite obviously, that will bring Mr. Santay-Carrillo back," said the judge, who suspended all but 50 years of a life sentence for Thompson. Ensor said she would recommend that he be sent to the Patuxent Institution, a maximum-security facility with psychiatric and educational treatment programs for young offenders.

Thompson was convicted last month of armed robbery and first-degree felony murder. He was 17 when he repeatedly stabbed Santay-Carrillo in front of stunned onlookers May 10, 2008. The suspect had told police that he had reacted violently after Santay-Carrillo refused to hand over a wallet containing $500 in savings that he intended to use for expenses related to the birth of his son.

Asked before being sentenced whether he had anything to say, Thompson begged the victim's family for forgiveness. "All the time I pray for them," he said. Referring to the act that had taken Santay-Carrillo's life, Thompson said, "I wasn't me, it wasn't in my heart."

Minutes earlier, his lawyer, Margaret A. Mead, also broke down briefly during her final address to the court. "Please, I need a minute," Mead said before composing herself. "I'm supposed to be professional."

Later, outside the courthouse, she said Thompson has a learning disability and reads at the third- or fourth-grade level, and that, after Ensor announced the sentence and the courtroom had cleared, Thompson had asked, "What did I get?"

Thompson is a young man who is "not clear on a lot of things," Mead said, but he recognized that there would be "a heavy penalty for taking the life of someone."

The defendant's mother, Tynesia Dean, and his father, Danny E. Thompson Sr., testified on his behalf, both apologizing profusely to the victim's family.

The victim's widow, Claudia Sales, brought her baby - now 11 months old and named Carlos, after his father - to court. Silent for the most part, he began to bawl the moment his mother took the stand and was taken out to a hallway, his cries echoing against the walls.

Sales, also in tears, directed her remarks to Thompson. "You had the chance to take the money, if that's what you wanted," she said. "The money is not important. Money can be made again. But you took the life of my son's father. You denied my son the chance to grow up by his father's side."

Sales, speaking in Spanish, her remarks translated by an interpreter, told Thompson that she and her husband had been "very happy waiting for arrival of the baby." She said later the family is planning a first-birthday party May 16 at the Overhills Mansion in Catonsville that will also serve as a fundraiser for the boy.

"Never in my mind," she said, "did I imagine that our world, our savings, all our hopes would come crashing down from one day to the next."

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