Baltimore woman, cousin, will be tried together in slaying of Glen Burnie dentist

Police believe dentist's former employee plotted with family member

March 25, 2011|Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore woman charged in the slaying of a popular Glen Burnie dentist will be tried with her 23-year-old cousin, an Anne Arundel circuit judge ruled Friday, despite their attempts to sever the two cases.

Judge Pamela L. North rejected a request by attorneys for Shontay Hickman, 36, and Dante Jeter for separate trials. Police believe Hickman plotted with Jeter to kill Dr. Albert Woonho Ro in 2006. Hickman had worked for Ro as an office manager and was suspected by his family of stealing more than $14,000 from his practice.

Both Hickman and Jeter were charged last year with first- and second-degree murder, second-degree burglary, attempted robbery and conspiracy to commit burglary.

Assistant State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess told North during a 75-minute hearing in Annapolis, a recording of which was available to The Sun, that a witness saw a woman fitting Hickman's description use a key to open the front door to Ro's Glen Burnie office, accompanied by three black males in their late teens "after office hours" on Sept. 26, 2006.

The witness told police that she saw Hickman look "nervously" out the window. When Ro failed to return home that night, his family called police. Ro's badly beaten body was found in his office that night by police, his face bludgeoned and barely recognizable, police said. Superficial wounds on his body indicated to police that he might have been tortured before he was killed.

Ro's death was considered a cold case until last year, when a fingerprint found in Ro's office led police to Jeter, who was already in prison awaiting trial in a 2008 killing in Baltimore. Jeter was shown a picture of Hickman, whom he identified as a cousin by marriage, as well as a photo of her husband, his attorney said. Jeter told police that they could get information about Ro's murder from the couple, according to Jeter's attorney, Harry Trainor.

Police had long suspected Hickman, who initially told them she was in Baltimore the night of Ro's death, although police say her cellphone records show that she was in Glen Burnie.

Leitess said during Friday's hearing that Jeter willingly talked with police about the robbery of Ro's office but asked for a lawyer when he realized police thought he was involved in the dentist's death.

Trainor said that his client maintains that he wasn't with Hickman at the time of Ro's death. He said in court Friday that "a substantial part" of the case is tied to a theft scheme for which Hickman has been accused. By trying Jeter with Hickman, Trainor said, "there's a spillover prejudicial effect."

Hickman is being held in lieu of $3 million bail. A trial date has not been set.

Baltimore Sun reporter Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this report

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