Woman found guilty in contract killing

Susan M. Datta, 52, was accused of murder, providing gun and conspiracy in death of Towson gas station owner

November 19, 2010|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

Susan M. Datta, an Essex woman accused of providing the gun used to kill her brother-in-law, a gas station owner, was found guilty Friday of first-degree murder after a two-day trial.

A Baltimore County Circuit Court jury also found Datta, 52, guilty of using a handgun in a crime of violence and of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. No sentencing date was set.

Datta is one of six defendants in the $9,000 contract killing of William R. Porter, who was shot twice in the head March 1 at his business on Towson's East Joppa Road. According to prosecutors, the crime was orchestrated by Porter's wife, Karla — Datta's sister — who had long spoken of having her husband killed. The women's brother, Calvin L. Mowers, is also a defendant.

Before both sides rested their cases Friday morning, Datta took the stand and described a conversation with her sister a couple of weeks before the killing, in which Karla Porter was "crying hysterically" over the abuse she said she was suffering at the hands of her husband, known as Ray. "'I can't take it any more,'" Datta quoted her sister as saying. "She said that he had woke her up and put a gun in her face. He told her that he could blow her brain out and that nobody would care."

Datta said that, without consulting her sister, she borrowed a gun from a friend, Ben Whaley, a few days later and gave it to her. "You have to promise me that you will only use it to protect yourself," Datta said she told Karla Porter. "She kind of, like, sighed, like a sigh of relief."

When news came of the fatal shooting at the Hess station — an act Karla Porter told police had been committed by a black man during a robbery — Datta said she did not make the connection between the gun she gave her sister and Ray Porter's death. When told by a detective that her sister and brother were suspects, Datta said, "I thought, 'I'm having a bad dream.' I just couldn't imagine them being involved in something like this." She said she had felt "manipulated" by her sister.

Datta, an insulin-dependent diabetic, said she had been "very confused" and suffering from a severe headache when she admitted to police five days after Ray Porter's death that she knew the gun was intended for his killing. "I can't really remember the conversation," she said under cross-examination by prosecutor John P. Cox. "I was in shock at the time."

In the interview with detectives, a videotape of which was played for the jury, Datta acknowledged speaking with her sister about the gun and its intended target — "for him," meaning Ray Porter — and that they needed to "find someone to use it." On the stand, Datta said that her sister only wanted her husband "beaten up."

In September, defendants Mowers and Matthew P. Brown pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, and Seamus A. Coyle was found guilty of the same charge. Karla Porter and the alleged hit man, Walter P. Bishop Jr., are scheduled for trial next year.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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