Judge denies bail to 4 suspects in killing of Dundalk bar owner

Victim's wife, her brother said to face death penalty

(Courtesy Baltimore County…)
May 27, 2010|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

The Dundalk man gunned down last week outside his tavern was struck by four bullets in the head and four in the chest. He was still breathing when help arrived but was beyond saving by the time he reached a hospital.

A day after Robert Lee Martin's wife, her brother and two accomplices were charged with first-degree murder in the barkeep's death, additional details of the killing emerged Thursday in a Towson courtroom during the defendants' bail review hearing.

Garret P. Glennon, an assistant state's attorney who oversees murder charges for the county, told the judge that an "appreciable amount of planning" had gone into the shooting of the tavern owner early Saturday as he left Hop's Inn for the night, a "coordinated effort" that involved a "division of labor."

That included the instigator, the gunman, the backup and the getaway driver, Glennon and other law enforcement officials said.

As the prosecutor pointed out the number of bullets that struck the 43-year-old bar owner, he painted a scene of a gunman intent on his task. "There was evidence of close-range firing on Mr. Martin," the prosecutor said.

It was the victim's 29-year-old wife who "orchestrated the whole incident," according to a representative of the county's Pretrial Services office, which provides background information and criminal histories on defendants in bail reviews.

Two of the four defendants, Jaclyn J. Martin and her brother, Robert M. Garner, 26, identified by police as the gunman, waived their right to appear before Baltimore County District Judge Sally C. Chester at the hearing. Defendants charged with first-degree murder are rarely released on bail before trial.

The judge remanded all four defendants to the continued custody of the county jail. "This is clearly a no-bond situation," Chester said.

Referring to Martin, who has no criminal history, the judge said, "She's up for the death penalty in this case." Earlier in the hearing, Chester had said the same about the gunman.

The two other defendants, Sturm R. Davis and Brandon M. Roth, both 19, appeared before the judge via a video hookup from the Baltimore County Detention Center a few blocks away.

The judge told Davis — sitting on a plastic chair in a red jail jumpsuit, his hands clasped, his eyes darting nervously — that, depending on his involvement in the crime, he faced either life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

"He was next to the shooter," Glennon told the judge, who then revised her remarks.

"More than likely, if you're not the first-degree principal, you're not going to get the death penalty," Chester told Davis. "Son, it's very important that you get a lawyer," she added.

The Pretrial Services representative told the judge that Davis was born and raised in Maryland but has no fixed address and "bounces around a lot." He has a sister and other relatives in the Baltimore area, has been working at the Taco Bell on Wise Avenue for about two months and has "no substance-abuse issues," the judge was told.

In May 2009, Davis was convicted of an unlawful purchase of alcohol in Page County, Va., but appeared to have no other record of court appearances until he was arrested in connection with Martin's murder.

Roth was arrested for marijuana possession two weeks ago in Baltimore County and was convicted in September 2009 for burglary in Virginia, receiving a 30-day suspended sentence and a period of unsupervised probation.

On Thursday, Roth sat hunched over in the plastic chair, unshaven and glum. He quietly answered, "Yes, m'am," when the judge asked whether he understood the charge against him. She said he would most likely be indicted by a grand jury, and that, as the man police identified as the getaway driver, the maximum he could face was life in prison.

Charging documents say that Garner paid the two teenagers to help him. Questioned by police, they confessed to their roles, according to the documents, which said Davis got $300 and Roth $100.

Since he did not appear for the court hearing, Garner's criminal history was not brought up. A review of court records shows that, among other cases, he was convicted on Sept. 29, 2008, of second-degree assault in Baltimore County. On that same day, he pleaded guilty to felony theft in an unrelated matter, and the two cases were joined for sentencing. He received a pair of two-year terms, to run concurrently.

Garner also has convictions for first-degree burglary in Baltimore County and for auto theft in Hampton, Va., and Orlando, Fla.

Glennon, the prosecutor, said the next step in the Martin case would be for the state's attorney's office to seek grand jury indictments against the four, a process that typically takes about 30 days. At the same time, the defendants have 10 days from the date they were charged — Wednesday — to decide whether they want to schedule a preliminary hearing at which they would be entitled to hear the state's evidence against them.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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