A man denied the modification of his sentence for the murder of a classmate in 1988 | Crime and justice
Cassandra Thompson openly wept in the courtroom on Friday as her friends wrapped around her and joined in her tears. The tears were of relief, not sadness.
On Friday afternoon, Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Julie Stevenson Solt denied a motion to modify the sentence for John Paul Sexton, 50, who was convicted of murdering fellow student Marc Uher. class at Linganore High School in 1988.
“We did it,” Thompson, 50, a friend of Uher’s, said in celebration, fighting back tears.
Sexton was sentenced to life plus 40 years in December 1989 for the murder of 16-year-old Uher of Monrovia the previous year. Sexton shot Uher in the head in Uher’s car after stealing $2,000 from him, the News-Post previously reported.
Thompson and four others wore white “We are MarcStrong” t-shirts for the audience to support Uher. They were his friends growing up.
In the front row, Chris Allen, 51, of Ijamsville, an Uher supporter, crosses his arms and stares straight ahead. Michelle Kinna, 50, of New Market, dabbed her eyes with a scarf. Thompson closed her eyes as she breathed slowly and deeply.
Throughout the hearing, the group exchanged comforting touches, held hands for support, and looked at each other in concern to make sure everything was okay.
Sexton’s attorney, Frederick County Deputy Public Defender Leslie Guthrie, argued for amending Sexton under the Juvenile Restoration Act, which passed in 2021. Guthrie did not argue for a specific alternative sentence.
The law allowed for many things, including allowing people incarcerated for at least 20 years for a crime they committed as a minor to file a petition with the court to have their sentence reduced.
Sexton was 16 when he killed Uher.
Sexton was hanging out at the Urbana Exxon, where Uher worked, the night of the murder, the News-Post previously reported. When Uher left work to bring the day’s cash and receipts to his boss, Sexton was in the passenger seat.
Sexton then shot Uher in the head and hid his body along the train tracks in Urbana, the News-Post reported. Uher’s car was later found at New Market Middle School.
Guthrie said the reduction of Sexton’s sentence under the law was not for pardon, but rather allowed the court to look at the adult Sexton has become.
He was a model inmate in prison, got his GED and finished college, she said. He joined community organizations and trained service dogs for veterans and first responders.
“I believe Mr. Sexton deserves our mercy,” she said.
But Deputy Chief State Attorney Laura Corbett Wilt said Sexton should not get a modification.
Her actions were premeditated and foolish, she said. Sexton lacked remorse, she said, and he inflicted untold pain on those who loved Uher.
Many of Uher’s supporters filed victim impact statements, she said. One was from Thompson, who was a peer counselor at Linganore High School when the murder happened.
“How do you advise someone on murder?” she wrote.
Uher’s brother Paul, who followed the hearing via Zoom, wrote in a victim impact statement that he couldn’t put into words the impact his brother’s murder had on his life. life. Some days he can only think about “what ifs”.
“How could my child’s life be different if he had an uncle? ” he wrote.
Others wanted to speak directly to Solt. Allen recalled how he and Uher were best friends and their families vacationed together.
“I miss my friend,” he said simply.
Andrew Horman, 50, of Hagerstown, shivered as he read his statement on yellow lined paper. But his voice was clear.
He explained how Sexton helped search for Uher when he went missing, forcing searchers to avoid the train tracks behind Horman’s house in Urbana, a popular meeting place for Uher and his friends. Uher’s body was found there.
“He dropped [Uher] like trash,” Horman said.
As Sexton stood to speak in court on Friday, the palpable grief of Uher’s friends turned into something more acute – anger.
Sexton turned to the group and apologized for the pain he caused and said he was trying to make amends. He told Uher’s friends that if released he would sit down with them to talk, with a mediator.
“I am not your enemy. … I have nothing but love and kindness for you,” he told the group. “That, and contrition and regret.”
Kevin Fisher, 49, of Myersville, got up, said he didn’t want to hear Sexton speak and left.
Sexton turned to Solt, saying that just because he did good things in prison, it’s still a dark place. He compared being sent to prison at 17 to being attacked by piranhas.
He asked for an opportunity to atone further for what he did.
“I messed up my life, but I can help others,” he said.
Solt acknowledged that Sexton had done many good things in prison and showed that he had been rehabilitated, but said the sentence of Frederick County Circuit Court Judge G. Edward Dwyer in 1989 was fitting.
Solt said that as part of Dwyer’s sentence, Sexton is eligible for parole, so it’s not up to her to decide if he should be released sooner than he would under Dwyer’s sentence. , she said.
“This is a parole board decision, not a court decision,” she said.
A person serving a life sentence is not eligible for parole until they have served 15 years, Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said. After that, they are eligible for a parole hearing every three years.
However, if Sexton were granted life parole, he would still have to qualify for parole for the remaining 40 years of his sentence, Smith said. Sexton was sentenced to 20 years for armed robbery and 20 years, to be served consecutively, for using a handgun.
He would have to complete 50% of each sentence before qualifying for parole for each, Smith said.
As Thompson and his friends wept, Sexton remained stoic as he left the courtroom.
“Some homicides, committed by minors, deserve the punishments they meted out,” Smith said.
Kinna said he felt like the last 33 years of stress and anguish had been lifted when Solt denied the request for a new sentence. Relief was an understatement, she said.
Kinna lived next door to New Market Middle School. She remembered the police knocking on her door, trying to find Uher.
“It’s the justice Marc deserves,” she said. “That’s what his family, that’s what everyone needs.”