Life sentence, no parole handed down after Cockeysville murder

Florida man met woman on Internet, stabbed her 60 times

May 18, 2010|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

Calling the murder of Donna Jean Brown an act of "savagery," a Baltimore County Circuit judge on Tuesday imposed a sentence of life in prison without parole to the man who stabbed Brown more than 60 times on Thanksgiving Day two years ago.

Rex N. Wesley, a 37-year-old Florida man with a long criminal record who had met Brown through the Internet and moved in with her in Cockeysville, was found guilty of first-degree murder after a three-day trial in December. Testimony revealed that Brown's stepmother discovered Wesley standing over the 31-year-old victim's body in the kitchen of her father's house in Randallstown, her body and head slashed by scores of wounds made by cooking tools and scissors.

Wesley took the stand in his own defense and said he had been so drunk that he had no recollection of the event. As a result, no motive was ascertained for the killing, which occurred after the couple had returned from a Thanksgiving dinner with Brown's relatives in Howard County.

In court on Tuesday, Wesley stood and, without looking at Brown's family sitting behind him, told Judge Timothy J. Martin that he had loved her and hoped "somehow a lesson can be learned from this tragedy."

Reading from a piece of paper, Wesley — shackled, bald, with a long, stringy beard and a tattoo of a teardrop on his face — reiterated that he did not "know what happened" on the night of the crime. "I do know that someone lost their life, and for that I'm sorry," he said.

"I do not seek to escape my personal responsibility," Wesley went on, adding that he needed help with psychiatric problems and alcohol abuse. "These are not problems for which a person will readily seek intervention on their own."

Wesley's attorney, Kimberley McGee, a public defender, told the judge that her client was not a monster. "He's a very damaged human being who committed a monstrous act," she said, explaining that, as children, Wesley and his siblings had been badly abused by their father, and that he had begun using alcohol and drugs when he was 11 years old.

"Had he gotten some help," McGee said, "we would not be here and Donna Brown would still be alive today."

McGee said that Wesley's sister had been murdered by her boyfriend only a few months before Brown's death and that her client had been deeply affected. She asked that Wesley be sentenced to a term that would include psychiatric treatment and allow for eventual release. "A life without parole means we're just throwing away this damaged man," McGee said.

But the judge saw it differently. "I recognize that Mr. Wesley's life has been awful," Martin said, but the crime that had brought the defendant before him was so "outrageous" — particularly the use of "multiple instruments to murder this woman," he added — that he could not consider leniency.

"Even today he tells the court that he doesn't know what happened," the judge said, noting that Wesley fled from the Browns' home, found shelter in a house under construction and evaded the authorities for almost a full day before being arrested. Such behavior did not suggest a man who was "completely loaded" or suffering from blackouts, Martin said.

"I don't think the public would ever be safe with Mr. Wesley," the judge concluded. "Certainly women wouldn't be safe."

Wesley showed no reaction as his sentenced was imposed. He was handcuffed and led away.

Outside the courtroom, the victim's father, Doug Brown, and his wife, Linda, fought back tears as they embraced relatives and thanked the prosecutors, Steven Roscher and Christina Cuomo, for their work on the case.

"The family is still grieving so much," Roscher said later, and noted that the crime had occurred on Thanksgiving Day. "How will they ever feel thankful again?"

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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